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Teeth & Toothbrushing

All About Teeth

Keeping teeth clean is important for good dental health. A regular routine will help keep teeth healthy and decay-free.

Teeth are useful for cutting, tearing and chewing food. Teeth break up food into little pieces, making it easier to swallow and digest. There are four types of teeth;

    • Incisors are for biting and cutting.
    • Canines are for tearing.
    • Premolars are for chewing.
    • Molars are for mashing.

By around the age of three children will have all 20 of their baby teeth. When they reach five or six years old, these teeth will begin to fall out and are replaced by 32 adult teeth.

You should start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. This is usually at about 6 months old, but can be earlier or later.

Dive Deeper

How To Brush Teeth Well

Brush at least twice a day. Just before bed and another time that fits in with your routine.

Brushing a baby's teeth

  • Sit baby on your knee, with their head resting against your chest.
  • Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all surfaces including gums. Start slowly and gradually build up the time you spend brushing. 
  • You could use a piece of clean gauze or muslin cloth wrapped around your finger to clean those very first teeth.
  • There is no need to rinse with water as this will wash away the fluoride.

Brushing a child's teeth

  • If an adult is helping, stand behind the child and tilt their head backwards.
  • Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all surfaces including gums.
  • Gently guide your child's hand so they can feel and learn how to brush teeth properly.
  • Try standing in front of a mirror so you can both see what is happening.
  • Encourage children to spit the toothpaste out afterwards. There is no need to rinse with water as this will wash away the fluoride.
  • Supervise brushing to make sure the right amount of toothpaste is used and toothpaste is not eaten from the tube.
  • Children will need help with teeth brushing until they are at least 7 years old.

My child doesn't like their teeth being brushed?

Not all children like having their teeth brushed. It can take time and patience to get used to. You could try using;

  • A timer
  • An app, such as Brush DJ
  • Sing Songs while you brush
  • Stickers or incentives
  • Brush your teeth at the same time so they learn from you. 

Teeth Brushing Demonstration

Why We Brush Teeth

If teeth are not cleaned properly, a sticky substance known as plaque sticks to the tooth enamel (the hard white outer covering of our teeth).

Plaque contains bacteria that will feed on the sugars and acids left over from food and drink in your mouth. This can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

If plaque is not removed it turns to ‘tartar’ which is hard and discolours the teeth.

Brushing teeth twice a day is an easy way to get rid of bacteria and acid so that they do not cause lasting damage to teeth and gums.

Read more about choosing toothbrushes and toothpaste

Visiting a Dentist

Visiting an NHS dentist is free for children. They should have their first appointment at the dentist by the age of one, or six months after their first tooth appears.

This is important because:

  • Your child will get used to visiting the dentist from an early age and it will become a familiar place and experience for them.
  • Any problems can be spotted early.
  • Specialist products may be used that help prevent tooth decay.
  • The dentist can give you advice on how to keep your child’s teeth healthy.

Find an NHS Dentist near you

Being a Role Model

Being a good role model with your own mouth care is very important;

  • Let children see other adults in the household brushing teeth twice a day.
  • Eat and drink tooth friendly food and drink.
  • See your dentist every six months and go straight away if you have problems in between.

Who can Help?

If you are struggling to make changes and would like some support, you can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays. 

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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