Good mouth health

  1. Look after your general health.
    • Eat a balanced, healthy diet and cut down on acidic drinks.
    • Avoid sugary foods and drinks between meals.
  2. Look after your teeth and gums. [16] [17]
    • Brush your teeth for two minutes in the morning and for two minutes at bedtime.
    • Never brush your teeth straight after a meal as it can damage your teeth, especially if you've had fruit, fizzy drinks, wine or any other food that contains acid.
    • Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
    • Choose a toothbrush with a small head to help reach every part of your mouth. Replace your toothbrush every three months and never share it.
    • Brush every surface of each tooth. Make sure the bristles reach the part of the tooth where it joins the gum as this is where plaque (a film of bacteria) collects.
    • Move the toothbrush in small, gentle, circular or scrubbing movements.
    • Dental floss or inter-dental brushes can help to clean in between your teeth. Ask your dentist to show you how to use these properly.
    • Brushing your tongue will freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria.
    • Consider using disclosing tablets which contain a harmless dye to stain plaque, making it easier to see and remove.
  3. Make sure your child brushes their teeth properly. [18]
    • Make tooth brushing part of their daily routine – preferably in the morning and last thing before they go to bed.
    • When their first teeth start to come through, use a children's toothbrush with a small smear of toothpaste to clean their teeth and gums.
    • Once all their teeth have come through, use a small-headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child.
    • Make small circular movements and concentrate on one section at a time.
    • Don't forget to brush gently behind the teeth and onto the gums.
    • Make sure they spit out the toothpaste and don't swallow any if possible.
    • You may find it easier to stand or sit behind your child, cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily.
    • It is important to supervise your child's brushing until they are at least seven or able to properly brush their teeth on their own.
  4. Help prevent tooth decay in your child. [18]
    • The main cause of tooth decay is how often your child eats or drinks sugary and acidic food and drink, not the amount, so try to keep these to mealtimes only. If you want to give your child a snack, stick to vegetables, fruit and cheese. Don’t give them too much dried fruit though, as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth.
    • Some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar, so check the label. The higher up the list of ingredients sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes sugar is called fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose on labels

Should you use fluoride toothpaste?

You find fluoride in lots of things including toothpaste and perhaps the drinking water in your area. These can all help to prevent tooth decay. All children up to three years old should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old, they should use toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm. Adults should use toothpaste that contains at least 1450ppm fluoride. You can check the level of fluoride on the toothpaste packaging. If you are unsure about using fluoride toothpaste ask your dentist or health visitor. [18]