Oral Health

It is important that children have healthy teeth and mouths so they can smile, speak and eat without pain, discomfort or embarrassment.

This webpage includes the key ways parents can help look after their children’s teeth and provides some information about where further support is available.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a family fluoride toothpaste containing 1450ppm of fluoride
  • For children under 3 years old use a smear of fluoride toothpaste, for children over 3 years old a pea sized amount
  • Spit out toothpaste after brushing but do not rinse
  • Reduce the consumption and frequency of food and drinks containing sugar. Restrict to meal times only
  • Visit the dentist at least once a year
  • We recommend children have a dental check by the age of one.


Brush baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Teeth should be brushed twice a day – last thing at night and one other occasion using a smear of fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. It will tell you on the tube how much fluoride the toothpaste contains.

Babies and toddlers may not always like you brushing their teeth but it is important that tooth brushing is supervised by an adult to make sure all their teeth are cleaned properly. Having an adult help brush babies teeth really makes a difference when it comes to preventing tooth decay so it’s worth keeping trying!

You should carry on supervising tooth brushing until your child is at least 7 years old.

Speak to a member of your health visiting team for more information about tooth brushing.

For children less than three years of age use a smear of fluoride toothpaste. For older children use a pea-sized amount.

How to care for the teeth of children aged 0-3 with Dr Ranj and Supertooth! - YouTube

How do I brush my child's teeth? (6 months to 7 years) | NHS - YouTube

Healthy Snacks and Drinks

Try to limit your child’s intake of sugary foods and drinks. The more sugary things they eat or drink the more likely they are to develop dental decay. Reducing sugar intake is also good for your child’s general health.

Most foods and drinks say on the label how much sugar they contain - it is not always obvious. They may use a traffic light system to show those with high sugar content, these should be avoided.

It is important that children are helped to make tooth friendly choices;

  • As a family try and eat ‘lower sugar’ foods. Visit NHS Healthier Families for information on healthy eating.
  • Drink tap water or milk - using an open cup or free flowing “sippy” cup not a bottle or a beaker with a valve.

Tooth-friendly snacks

  • Raw vegetables, you could even add a dip
  • Fresh fruit i.e. a banana
  • Tinned fruit (in natural juice) with plain natural yoghurt
  • Pieces of cheese
  • Crackers/breadsticks
  • Bread products with low fat spreads i.e. toast, pitta breads, crumpets
  • Plain popcorn
  • Sandwiches – fillings could include: cheddar and celery, cream cheese and cucumber, tuna and sweetcorn, ham or chicken, houmous and grated carrots


Remember the safest drinks for teeth are plain milk or plain water.

For more information on how to cut down on sugary food and drink click on the Change For Life sugar smart website or Sheffield is sweet enough Sheffield's Sweet Enough | Help Our City Eat Less Sugar! (sheffieldissweetenough.org)

Visiting the Dentist

Visiting an NHS dentist is free for children. They should have their first appointment at the dentist by the age of one.

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.
  • The dentist can give you advice on how to keep your child’s teeth healthy.
  • They can apply fluoride varnish to your child’s teeth to help protect against tooth decay.

How do I find an NHS dentist?

  1. Ask family and friends for recommendations.
  2. Visit the NHS website: Find a dentist - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

If you have a dental emergency and you don’t have a dentist, please telephone NHS 111

Babies put their hands in their mouth and dribble in preparation to eat solid foods. However, this stage coincides with teething. During teething you may notice:

  • more dribbling than usual
  • red and sore gums where a tooth is coming through
  • flushed cheek on one side
  • rubbing one ear
  • chewing on things more than usual

To give your baby some short-term relief you can give your baby something to chew on, like a teething ring. Avoid giving rusks as they are high in sugar. There is no evidence to support that babies get fever or diarrhoea due to teething. However, if your baby is in pain, they can be given sugar-free paracetamol (calpol) or sugar-free ibuprofen.

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

Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies. From six months of age infants should be introduced to drinking from a free-flow cup. Introducing a free flow cup reduces the potential for young children to suck for long periods of time from bottles. The only drinks to be given in a bottle should be plain milk or plain water. From age one, feeding from a bottle should be discouraged. Sugar should not be added to weaning foods or drinks.

Remember the only safe drinks for teeth are plain milk and plain water.

For more information on infant feeding please visit Infant Feeding | Sheffield (sheffielddirectory.org.uk)

Now your child has all their baby teeth they should be brushing their teeth twice a day - last thing at night and another time during the day. Try using star charts to remind and encourage them. You will need to supervise brushing until your child is 7 years of age especially the bedtime brush – its really important you make sure they are brushing their teeth properly – not just giving them a 2 second scrub!

Help your child to;

  • Use a pea sized blob of fluoride toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm of fluoride once they are 3 years old.
  • Use the ‘spit don’t rinse’ rule. This keeps the fluoride on the teeth as long as possible.
  • Brush for two minutes – you can use timers or play songs to help keep to time.

Tooth brushing games and songs

To make brushing more fun, try out the different tooth brushing songs, games and apps below

How to care for the teeth of children aged 3-6 with Dr Ranj and Supertooth! - YouTube

Oral Health Promotion Team

The oral health promotion team are commissioned by Sheffield City Council to deliver oral health improvement programmes in Sheffield.

The team can be contacted on 0114 3078575

Supervised toothbrushing programmes

Supervised toothbrushing clubs began in Sheffield in 2014 with 14 schools and nurseries and 562 children participating. The programme has now grown to around 100 nurseries and schools with nearly 9000 children brushing their teeth every day as well as brushing their teeth at home.

These targeted toothbrushing clubs are aimed at children living in deprived areas who are at greater risk of poor oral health.

For more information about supervised toothbrushing clubs please email the Oral Health Promotion Team



Resources to loan

We have oral health education resources that can be loaned free of charge including models of teeth, posters, story sacks and jigsaws. These are also available at your local family hub.