Oral health for toddlers and pre-schoolers

Key people supporting oral health improvement in this age group:
  • Parents and carers

  • Nursery Nurses and early years staff

  • Health visiting team


Key messages:

  • Brush all the surfaces of the teeth and gumline in small circles for around 2 minutes, twice a day - just before bedtime and at another time that fits in with your routine
  • Children under 3 should use a smear of toothpaste containing at least 1,000 ppm fluoride
  • Children aged 3 to 6 should use a pea-sized amount of the toothpaste containing at least 1,000 ppm fluoride 
  • For children at higher risk of tooth decay, use a toothpaste containing 1350-1500 ppm fluoride for maximum prevention.
  • Spit out the toothpaste after brushing rather than rinsing, to avoid diluting the fluoride concentration
  • Brush all the surfaces of the teeth.   The parent/carer should sit the child on their lap or stand behind them and cradle the child’s head while brushing
  • Persevere even if the child is uncooperative. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is more important than good toothbrushing technique!
  • Each family member should have their own toothbrush to stop spread of germs

Linked resources: 


Key messages:

  • Reduce the amount and frequency of having foods and drinks that contain sugar, only give sweet foods including dried fruit at mealtimes
  • Fizzy drinks, soft drinks, juice drinks and squashes sweetened with sugar have no place in a child's daily diet
  • Limit the amount of fruit juice and/or smoothies your child drinks to a maximum of 150 mls (one portion) in total per day and drink it with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay
  • Always ask for sugar-free medicines

Linked resources:

Visiting the dentist:

Key Messages

  • Adults should have a regular check-up at the dentist at least once every 2 years, and children at least once a year
  • NHS dental treatment is free for children under 18 or under 19 and in qualifying full-time education
  • Some adults can also get free NHS dental treatment
  • Going to the dentist regularly helps the child become familiar with the dental environment, and enables the dentist to pick up on any problems as early as possible
  • The dentist can paint fluoride varnish on children’s teeth to protect them from tooth decay.  All children over 3 should have it applied at least twice a year, and it may also be used for younger children at high risk of tooth decay.  Parents/carers should ask their dentist about fluoride varnish

Linked resources:

Ava's first visit to the dentist.