Your child's teeth

We need teeth to help us to:

  • Eat
  • Speak
  • Smile!

Children have 20 baby teeth which usually start to fall out when they are about six years old. They are replaced by 32 teeth permanent teeth as your child grows into adulthood.

It’s really important for your child to have a regular teeth-cleaning routine. Children need to be helped or supervised brushing their teeth until they're at least 7 years old.

  • Your child should brush their teeth for at least two minutes twice a day; once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day.
  • Encourage your child to spit out excess toothpaste, but not to rinse with water. 
  • Supervising tooth brushing helps support your child.  
  • You can brush your child’s teeth yourself or watch your child if they brush their own teeth.
  • From the age of seven to eight, children should be able to brush their own teeth, but it's still a good idea to watch them now and again.
  • Replace your child’s toothbrush every three months and everyone should have their own toothbrush that only they use to prevent infection being transferred.

  • NHS dental care for children is free.
  • You should take your child to the dentist when their first teeth appear. This is so they become used to going to the dentist. Your dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage.
  • Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist. 

Find a dentist near you

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth breaks down sugar to cause an acid attack, which then dissolves the teeth.

Making sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste can help protect their teeth.

Teeth are at most risk at night because there is less saliva in the mouth to protect them.

Here's how you and your children can have healthy teeth and keep trips to the dentist to a minimum.

Brush your teeth twice a day

Help your child have healthy teeth for life by having a good dental health routine.

Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. 

Read more about how to look after your children's teeth.

Read more about how to keep your teeth clean

Cut down on sugar, and other lifestyle tips

  • It’s best to eat food and drinks containing sugar at meal times
  • Lots of foods contain sugar – it’s not just the obvious things like sweets and cakes. Cereals, plain biscuits and yoghurts also contain a lot of sugar
  • Dilute fruit juices and squashes with water
  • Be careful with what you’re giving your child to drink; fizzy drinks can cause the wearing of teeth (known as erosion) because they have a high acid content and milk shakes contain a lot of sugar too.

Have regular dental check-ups 

Have regular check-ups with your dentist. Do not put off going for a check-up. Detecting problems early can mean they're easier to treat.
If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that's harder, or even impossible, to repair.

Straighten crooked teeth with braces

More and more teenagers (and some adults) are having braces and orthodontics to straighten their teeth.

Find out more about braces and orthodontics.

Floss between your teeth

Floss or use an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque lodged between your teeth.

Read more about why you should use dental floss.

Stop smoking and drinking alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol is harmful to the body as a whole and to your mouth.

  • Smoking can lead to stained teeth and is bad breath 
  • Smoking can cause decay by reducing the saliva flow 
  • People who smoke are seven times more likely to have serious gum disease which can lead to loss of the bone that holds your teeth in meaning they might drop out.
  • Drinking alcohol regularly can damage your teeth by causing erosion which leads to decay and painful sensitive teeth.

Related links down side of page:

Need help quitting smoking? Visit the NHS Smokefree website

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (also called bruxism) is often related to stress and anxiety.  

Most people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw aren't aware they're doing it. It often happens when you’re asleep or while you’re concentrating or under stress.

If you worried about teeth grinding, you should speak to your child’s dentist.

You can also find out more information by visiting