Teeth & Toothbrushing

Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

Choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste to clean teeth and gums is important.

Why not get your child to choose their own toothbrush, this will help encourage them to brush their teeth.

Try to get your child used to mint flavoured toothpaste early. It can be difficult to swap from sweet flavoured toothpastes as they get older.

Dive Deeper

Choosing Toothpaste

The most important thing to think about when choosing toothpaste is that it contains fluoride. This is written on the back of the tube or box.

Fluoride is a mineral that plays an important role in preventing tooth decay. When children use toothpaste from an early age it is harder for plaque to stick to the tooth enamel and decay is reduced.

Toothpaste should contain a fluoride level of 1350ppm (parts per million). Family or adult toothpaste is completely safe for children of all ages. Children’s toothpastes have become more popular but you do not need to use them. 

If using children's toothpaste makes brushing easier and it contains no less that 1000ppm fluoride, then it is fine to use. Just ensure you switch to family toothpaste as soon as possible.

Dentists can apply a ’fluoride varnish’ to your child’s teeth which protect them even more.


How Much Toothpaste

Age 0-3 years - Use a smear of toothpaste - about the size of a grain of rice.

Age 3+ years - Use a ‘pea sized’ blob of toothpaste.

Although toothpaste is not harmful, children should be discouraged from eating or swallowing it. Too much toothpaste can cause a spike in fluoride levels in the bloodstream, that may affect tooth development.

Avoid rinsing with water or mouthwash after brushing, just spit out the excess toothpaste. This is because the fluoride from the toothpaste keeps working to protect the teeth even after brushing.

Choosing a Toothbrush

Baby Toothbrushes

  • Choose a small headed baby toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Use a piece of clean gauze or muslin cloth wrapped around your finger to clean those very first teeth.
  • Do not leave your baby alone with a toothbrush.


  • Continue to use a small headed, soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Allowing your child to choose their own toothbrush may encourage them to be involved in regular brushing.

Older Children

  • Children will still need help and supervision with tooth brushing until they are at least 7 years old.
  • Avoid using an electric toothbrush until a good brushing technique has been learnt. 

Toothbrushes should be replaced about every 2 to 3 months – or before, if they begin to look worn.


Mouthwash & Flossing


Mouthwash containing fluoride can help reduce tooth decay but should not be used at the same time or instead of regular brushing. 

  • You could use a mouthwash at a different time of day – for example after lunch.
  • Mouthwashes should be alcohol free and contain fluoride.
  • Children should not use mouthwash until you can be sure they will not swallow it.


  • Flossing is important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. You can help your child to floss once their teeth begin to grow close together, usually between 2 – 6 years.
  • Be careful not to leave any flossing products in young children’s reach when you are not with them as they can be a choking hazard.

Top Tips from Parents 

Who Can Help?

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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