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Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

If our teeth are not cleaned well a sticky substance known as plaque clings 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 foods and drinks in your mouth - this can cause tooth decay, and gum disease.
If the plaque is not removed it turns to ‘tartar’ which is hard and discolours the teeth and it can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

The bad bacteria and acids in our mouths need to be cleaned away at least twice a day so that they do not cause lasting damage to our teeth and gums.

  • Cleaning teeth well is essential to keeping teeth and gums healthy.

    Most children will need help and supervision to clean their teeth until they are about seven, even after this age most children will need reminding to keep up their good habits.

    There is a video here about how to brush your baby’s teeth.

    Here is some information on helping older children clean their teeth.

    Teenagers can sometimes be ‘forgetful’ so reminding them about stained teeth and bad breath can help with motivation!

    You can buy ‘disclosing tablets’ from your chemist which show up plaque on teeth using a harmless dye, and can be used before and after brushing. Children and young people enjoy this and it helps to encourage brushing and improve brushing technique! See a disclosing tablet  demo here

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

    • Let your children see you brushing and flossing your 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.


  • The most important thing to consider when choosing toothpaste is that it contains Fluoride.

    Fluoride is a mineral that plays an important role in preventing tooth decay, it is found in some foods and in water and is added to toothpastes. When children have fluoride from an early age it is harder for plaque to stick to the tooth enamel and decay is reduced by 40 -60%.

    To be most effective toothpaste should contain a fluoride level of 1350ppm (parts per million) you can check on the tube to see how much is in it.

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

    Children’s Toothpaste

    Ordinary toothpaste is completely safe for even the smallest child to use.

    Children’s toothpastes have become more popular but you do not need to use them.

    In fact it can make it more difficult for children to make the changeover to adult toothpaste.

    They often have milder and different flavours making it more likely that children eat toothpaste which is not a good idea and are often more expensive. However, 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 ordinary family toothpaste as soon as they will tolerate it.

    Using Toothpaste

    Toothpaste is not poisonous but eating toothpaste can cause a ‘spike’ in fluoride levels in the bloodstream that may affect tooth development.

    Children should be discouraged from eating it and young children should only use small amounts of toothpaste to avoid this.

    Age 0-3 years you should use just a smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste. *include image of what smear and pea size look like here*

    Age 3+ years you should use a ‘pea sized’ blob

    Spit don’t Rinse

    To make the most of the fluoride in toothpaste you should not rinse your mouth with water but just spit out the excess as this leaves the fluoride in contact with the teeth for as long as possible. If you use mouthwash you should not use immediately after brushing for the same reason.

  • Choosing a toothbrush

    Always look for Oral Health Foundation Approval on toothbrushes.

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

    For Baby;

    Choose a small headed baby toothbrush with soft bristles.

    You can use a piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger to clean those very first teeth.

    Do not leave your baby alone with a toothbrush and they should not play with them.

    For Toddlers;

    Continue to use a small headed, soft bristled toothbrush.

    Your little one might like to choose a colour they like.

    Older Children

    Your child should continue to use a toothbrush that suits their needs and your dentist can give you advice on this. You may decide to buy an electric or battery operated toothbrush – these can encourage your child to brush.

    It is very important to remember that until a child is around seven they will not be able to reliably clean their teeth well enough or for long enough without adult help and supervision.

  • Mouthwash

    Mouthwash containing fluoride can help reduce tooth decay but it is not as effective as brushing your teeth and cannot be used instead of tooth brushing.

    It should not be used at the same time as brushing as it may reduce the benefits of the fluoride in the toothpaste. You could use it at a different time – for example after lunch.

    Mouthwashes should be alcohol free and contain fluoride to be most effective.

    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 their teeth once they begin to grow close together – between the ages of 2 – 6. Teaching flossing at an early age creates a good habit that they are more likely to keep up with as they grow older.

    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.

    Here is a child friendly video to explain flossing to your child.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. 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. CLICK HERE

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