Key messages for practitioners and the early years workforce

Both health practitioners and others working within early years settings (for example nurseries and schools) have the responsibility of relaying to parents and carers the following key messages for children’s oral health:

  • Make sure children are registered with dental services soon after they are born or at least as soon as the first tooth appears.  From then on, children should visit the dental practice every six months (or as advised by your dental team) for clinical care and advice on how to protect their teeth.
  • Brush teeth and gums twice a day, and especially at bedtime, using at least 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride toothpaste. (Children under two years of age should use just a smear of toothpaste; children over two, a pea-sized amount.) Research evidence and dental experts agree that establishing this routine at an early age can prevent tooth decay in childhood and later life.
  • Supervise brushing up to the age of seven and encourage children not to swallow toothpaste while brushing, and to spit, not rinse, after brushing – to give the fluoride more time to protect teeth.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and restrict foods and drinks containing sugar to meal times only.
  • Cooled boiled tap water is the best drink to offer, in addition to the usual milk (breast or formula).
  • Drinks between meals should be limited to plain milk and tap water as these are safest for teeth.
  • Register with a dentist and visit at least twice a year (or as advised by your dental team) for clinical care and advice on how to protect children’s teeth.
  • Toothbrushes should be changed every three months, or sooner if the bristles splay.

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