How to get children engaged with good dental hygiene

A child’s early experiences of dental hygiene can impact on the rest of their life; therefore, it is so important to teach them about good habits as soon as possible.

In primary schools across the UK about eight or nine children in every class will already have developed tooth decay and almost one in three children starting school have visible signs of tooth decay.  Since tooth decay is a completely preventable disease, these statistics are worrying.

Teaching good habits and routines at an early age means that children are more likely to continue these into adulthood.


  • START EARLY – The earlier you teach your child good dental hygiene habits, the sooner they will         adjust and take it up as a routine.
  • SET AN EXAMPLE – Children love to copy things that we do ourselves, so to teach them good dental hygiene it is really important that we follow it too!
  • REWARDS – Children like to be rewarded so use a reward chart and/or sticker to help encourage them.
  • KEEP IT FUN – Children lose interest quickly so try and keep it entertaining for them.
  • Let them choose their own toothbrush (character/light up/electric).
  • Singing, telling a rhyme or playing a song while your child brushes.
  • There are also educational brushing APPS which you can download.
  • TELL SHOW DO – This a good way to teach young children the correct techniques of good Dental  hygiene.  It helps them to hear, see and practice the correct motions themselves which reinforces good habits.
  • Use a small, soft bristled toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste.
  • Brush for 3 minutes.
  • Spit out any excess toothpaste and try not to swallow any.
  • DO NOT rinse.

Try and remember that however frustrating it gets if your child refuses to brush or let you brush, don’t traumatise them.  This will just increase their anxiety and may stay with them till adulthood which can result in a fear of the dentist.


It is important to find a dental practice which specialises in family care and a dentist that has a good rapport with children.

  • START EARLY – Bring your child along with you from an early age (baby) so that they can acclimatise themselves to the different environment/smells/uniforms etc.
  • MAKE IT FUN – The practise might have books, activities, stickers to help engage your child and teach them about good dental hygiene.
  • REWARD – After the appointment you could arrange a fun educational reward or activity such as family time at the park.
  • ROUTINE – Remember to bring your child every 6 months.


  • Most foods including milk and vegetables contain some sugar; however, these foods are part of a healthy diet because many of them also contain healthy nutrients.
  • To help control the amount of sugar your child consumes, read food labels and choose foods and drinks with no or low added sugars.
  • Eating patterns are important, food eaten as part of a meal cause less harm as the saliva released helps wash food from the mouth and lessen the effect of the acids, which can harm the teeth and cause cavities.
  • Remember, children should consume no more than about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.
  • Encourage water and plain milk instead of juice, fizzy drinks and flavoured milk.
  • Ensure you child eats a varied healthy diet.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Don’t brush your child’s teeth for 1 hour after eating as brushing straight afterwards can cause small particles of enamel to be brushed away.