Teeth & Toothbrushing

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, or six months after their first tooth appears. 

Most children and young people visit the dentist every six months. Your dentist will advise at the first appointment. 

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.
Dive Deeper

Finding an NHS Dentist

Registering everyone in the family at an NHS Dentist is the first step in getting dental care.

It can be hard to know which dentist to choose. You can search for an NHS Dentist near you.

Parents do not have to be registered for their children to be able to visit the dentist, but dental care is very important for the whole family and you are an important role model for your child.

Some areas have limited spaces available for NHS patients – you may have to go on a waiting list for the practice you would prefer. Call around several to look for a space.

If you have no luck, don’t give up. Call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233 for advice and help to get the dental care you are entitled to.

What Happens at the Dentist

Phone your local dental surgery or visit them to book an appointment.

Babies should have an appointment before their first birthday. Your first visit is a chance for you to meet each other and ask any questions you may have.

  • Your baby or young child will be able to sit on your lap. Most children enjoy a ride in the up and down chair!
  • Letting them watch your check up can be a good way for the dentist to show your child what happens. To begin with visits are about getting used to the sights, sounds and smells.
  • Try to stay relaxed and make the visit fun. There are often stickers for younger children to reward them for getting a check up.
  • The dentist won’t need to examine a baby’s mouth unless there is a specific concern.
  • If your child is a little bit older they may be happy for the dentist to look in their mouth.
  • The dentist will be keen for the visit to be a good experience for your child and will not ‘make them’ do anything they don’t want to.
  • You can help prepare your child before the visit by telling them the dentist will ask to look in their mouth and count their teeth.
  • The dentist might talk about healthy foods and drinks for teeth. They will give you advice on how to clean your baby or child’s teeth.

Your dentist will tell you how often your child needs to be seen by them; this is usually every 6 months.

Regular appointments will help your child get used to visiting the dentist and helps the dentist spot any problems early on.

Visiting the Dentist Video

Keeping Visits Positive

There are different people, sounds, and smells at the dentist and this can cause some children and young people worry. Helping your child overcome this will make it easier for them to see the dentist when they should.

There are things you can do to help to reassure your child;

  • Talk about what will happen at the dentist – talk about the people, noises and smells.
  • Look at child friendly books about visiting the dentist – ask at your local library.
  • Make believe going to the dentist with younger children – you or a favourite toy can be the patient!
  • It can be hard if you have your own fears about the dentist. Now might be a good time to get some help for yourself. Talk to your dentist or visit the Norfolk Wellbeing Services for support.
  • Use relaxation techniques. There are a lot available on the internet, CBeebies have some good ideas. 
  • After the appointment plan a treat; a trip to the park or watching a favourite film is something nice to focus on.

Dentists are sensitive to how scary some people find their appointments. They have techniques to help. If you do not find your dentist as understanding as you hoped you could speak to your practice about this.

For some children and young people the worry can make attending the dentist very difficult. Talk to the dentist or call Just One Number on the contact details below to discuss what you might do next. It is important your child gets the support they need to go to the dentist.


If you or your child has a toothache;

  • If you are registered with a dentist call them for an urgent appointment.
  • If it is out of opening hours there will be instructions on who to contact next.
  • If you do not have a registered dentist call 111 for advice and to access urgent care.
  • GP's cannot treat dental problems.

Healthy Teeth Habits

Cleaning teeth twice a day and eating a healthy diet are habits to build into daily life.

Going to the dentist is another important part of making sure your child has healthy teeth and gums.

  • Take your child along to your appointments with you from an early age.
  • Make ‘whole family’ appointments as often as possible to make it easier to remember.
  • Make the next appointment at the end of the previous one. So you don’t forget, sign up for ‘reminder’ texts or calls.

Take a toothbrush and toothpaste along to the appointment if you are going straight from school or work.

Dental Check by One

The 'Dental Check by One' campaign began because dentists wanted parents and carers to know the importance of an early visit to the dentist.

All babies should see the dentist once their first teeth appear or by the age of one.

This has been shown to help children keep their teeth healthy and avoid tooth decay and painful toothaches.

Starting these good habits early makes it more likely your child and the whole family will carry on looking after their teeth.

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 07480 635060 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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