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Looking after your toddlers teeth

By the time they reach toddlerhood, your child will already have a few teeth, but of course there are more to come! Here’s what you need to know about toddlers and teeth.

When should we start toothbrushing?

You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears! You only need a smear of fluoride containing toothpaste until your child is three, and then go for a pea-sized amount.

There’s no need to buy a toothpaste specially marketed as baby toothpaste, as long as the one you’re using contains fluoride no less than the concentration of 1000 parts per million (PPM). Children over three years of age should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing more than 1000 parts per million (PPM) fluoride. You’ll find this information on the tube and packaging.

Get your child into the habit of brushing their teeth both in the morning and before they go to bed. Toothbrushing should last two minutes.

Encourage your child to spit out the remaining toothpaste after brushing, but avoid rinsing with water afterwards. Rinsing after brushing removes the fluoride from the tooth surface so your child won’t get its protective benefits.

Making brushing fun

Sometimes brushing teeth can be a bit of a battle with a child, so try these tips to make it more fun for everyone:

Visiting the Dentist

Dentists recommend that children have their first dental visit before their first birthday. Remember, NHS dental care is free until your child is 18. Mothers are also eligible for free dental care up until their child’s first birthday. You can find a local NHS dentist here or by phoning your local Healthwatch helpline.

Visiting the dentist regularly is important as any problems can be sorted out straightaway. Don’t leave it until your child’s in pain with toothache!

Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish. It can be painted on when your child is three years or above, and will provide an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay first shows up as white lines on the surface of the tooth. At this stage, a change in diet along with the use of fluoride toothpaste can prevent things from getting worse, and fluoride varnish helps with this too.

If the decay is left, it will develop into brown (and sometimes black) holes on the tooth and will become very painful for the child. Sometimes a dentist can fill the tooth, but often it will need to be taken out.

If in doubt, or if you see any changes in your child’s teeth please see a dentist immediately.

Coping with toothache

The best thing you can do is give your child sugar free medicine to help the pain and make an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible. Don’t make an appointment to see the GP first – they’ll simply refer you to a dentist anyway.

Tooth trauma

If your child has an accident and a tooth is knocked out or damaged, it’s important to get emergency dental treatment. Don’t put a baby tooth back in the mouth. Contact your dental practice as soon as possible and explain what has happened. You should still be able to contact your dental team for emergency treatment, even if the incident has happened outside normal dental practice hours.

If you phone the practice number, you should be given information on when and where you will be treated. If you don’t have a dentist, call 111.

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Page last reviewed: 23-01-2024

Next review due: 23-01-2027