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Dental care for children

It is very important that children learn from a young age how to look after their teeth and gums. Here's how:

  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day, using small circular motions. Their teeth should be cleaned after eating and before bed using toothpaste with fluoride that is suitable for children, which can help to strengthen the outside of the teeth and prevent decay.
  • Try to get into a regular tooth brushing routine, and give your child plenty of praise when they brush their teeth well.
  • Replace toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every three months.
  • You should supervise, or help children with their tooth brushing, until they are at least seven years old.
  • When they start brushing by themselves, check every few days to make sure they are doing it properly.
  • Make sure your child has dental check-ups twice a year. Find your nearest dentist in the National Health Services Directory.
  • Ensure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Try to keep sweet foods and drinks to mealtimes.
  • As your child's adult teeth grow through, you should make your dentist aware of any misalignment of the teeth or jaw. They will advise if corrective treatment is required.

Dental care for babies

Many babies begin teething at around three months old, with the first teeth usually appearing at around six to nine months. By the age of one, a baby will usually have around eight teeth. However, all babies develop at different rates, so this can vary.

You should begin gently brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they arrive. You can buy toothpaste and small-headed toothbrushes especially for babies or children at your local pharmacy or supermarket. You should clean your baby or child’s teeth until they are old enough to do it themselves. This is usually around the age of seven years.

It’s important for your child to get into a regular oral hygiene routine to prevent tooth decay in the future. Babies can be affected by tooth decay as soon as their first teeth arrive. Your baby should also visit the dentist as soon as their teeth begin to appear so the dentist can check their teeth are developing as they should be.

When to seek further help

If you develop any of the following symptoms, you should visit your dentist to discuss your symptoms:

  • pus coming from your gums
  • a bad taste in your mouth that won’t go away
  • loose teeth caused by infected gums
  • any abscesses that develop – these can be under your teeth and will usually be very painful.

If you develop any of the following symptoms with your mouth problems, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible:

  • any difficulty talking or swallowing
  • swollen lymph glands in your neck
  • a fever (a temperature over 38⁰C).

Last reviewed: August 2015

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