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Big smiles
Key points
  • Red or swollen gums might be a sign of gum disease
  • Your child will most likely grow out of grinding their teeth
  • You should try to discourage thumb sucking
  • A more exciting toothbrush or a fun chart can help convince your child to brush

WHAT CAN I DO IF MY CHILD WON’T BRUSH?

As your child hits preschool age, it's normal for them to rebel a little against certain routines such as brushing their teeth. One of the easiest ways to get your child back into brushing is to make it more fun. Using a toothbrush with their favourite cartoon character on will certainly help, and even switching to an electric toothbrush can be enough to get them interested again!

IS TWO MINUTES PROVING TOO LONG?

If so, try a timer or a timed toothbrush. A tooth brushing chart will also help motivate them, with stickers as rewards for every time they brush for the full two minutes.

Top Tip:

Sticky sweets are more harmful to your child's oral health than sweet drinks, as they easily stick between their teeth and cause damage over time.

bubble tail

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD HAS TOOTHACHE?

The first thing you should do is make sure the problem is actually a toothache. Firstly check the area your child is telling you hurts for pieces of food trapped between teeth. Dental floss should remove any you do find.

Toothache can be very painful and upsetting, so trying to relieve the symptoms is important. Rinsing their mouth out with warm water and a little salt will clean their mouth, and any swelling in their face should be treated with an ice pack.

Over the counter painkillers can also help. Remember to follow the instructions carefully and never give a product containing Aspirin to a child under 16-years-old.

If the pain lasts longer than two hours you should take your child to the dentist or a doctor. Even if the pain subsides, it's important your child is checked over by a professional.

WHY DOES MY CHILD HAVE A CAVITY?

Enamel on your child's teeth is what protects the tooth from the acid in your mouth formed when sugar in food and drink combines with saliva. Your child has 50% less enamel than you do, so they're at much higher risk of damage occurring to the enamel. When this damage occurs, a hole or ‘cavity' is left in the tooth.

Tooth decay may be common, but it's completely preventable. You can help protect your child's teeth by:

  • Ensuring they have a good, balanced diet.
  • Maintaining a good tooth brushing routine.
  • Visiting the dentist regularly.
  • Avoiding prolonged use of bottles/sippy cups – especially at night.

A fluoride varnish treatment is a great way to protect against cavities and prevent further tooth decay.

Did you know?

The best time to create healthy eating behaviours is when a child is between three and five. Choosing healthier options at this time in your child's development is more likely to have a lasting impact on their dental health.

WHY ARE MY CHILD'S GUMSRED AND SWOLLEN?

Red and swollen gums can be a sign of teething, but if your child is past the teething stage, they may have gum disease.

Gum disease is caused by a build up of plaque on your child's teeth which irritates their gums. This leads to swelling, soreness and bleeding. If you think your child may have gum disease you should bring them along to us as soon as possible.

CAN MEDICINE HARM MY CHILD'S TEETH?

Some medicines contain a lot of sugar, which can harm your child's teeth. You should always opt for a sugar-free version if possible.

WHY DOES MY CHILD GRIND THEIR TEETH?

Teeth-grinding is fairly common in pre-schoolers, and usually doesn't need treatment. Some children clench their jaws, or grind their teeth so hard it makes a noise. Some children even grind their teeth during their sleep. In most cases this behaviour doesn't last, but, if it does, you might want to speak to us. It can lead to headaches, tooth or jaw pain or wearing down their teeth.

Getting your little one into a routine will have a lasting impact on their dental health

CAN THUMB SUCKING HARM MY CHILD'S TEETH?

Thumb sucking is another common preschooler behaviour, but it's important to try and discourage it. Thumb sucking puts pressure on your child's teeth and can affect the alignment of their teeth. The best tactic to curb this habit is to speak to your child about it, and explain why they shouldn't continue to do it. Also, when you spot your child sucking their thumb, don't confront them directly about it or try and remove their thumb from their mouth, just simply ask them if they're aware they're sucking their thumb and explain again why they should try not to.

WHEN CAN MY CHILD START USING MOUTHWASH?

Children under six shouldn't use mouthwash as they're more likely to swallow it. It does however offer many benefits like helping to remove plaque from teeth and gums, so once your child is old enough they should start to use mouthwash with your supervision.

DOES MY CHILD NEED TO FLOSS?

Yes. Flossing removes food and plaque between teeth and is an important part of dental hygiene. Once the spaces between your child's teeth have narrowed they should start to use it – usually by the time they're four​ years' old. You should always try to find floss which is soft and flexible, so it doesn't hurt their gums. We recommend your child flosses every day, but at the very least twice a week.

Providing NHS Dentistry