Oral Health FAQs

What would be the best types of snacks for my child to eat?

Vegetables, such as broccoli florets, carrot sticks or cucumber sticks, toast, pitta or chapatti fingers, breadsticks or even small strips of cheese are great snacks as they are low in sugar. Whole fresh fruit such an apple, a banana or some grapes are safe to snack on. Try to avoid giving sugary foods as snacks as this causes additional damage to teeth between meals. Sugary foods like processed fruit (dried fruit, fruit flakes, smoothies etc) and flavoured yoghurts can be offered as part of a main meal with a drink to give teeth the best protection.


When is the best time to give my child snacks?

Babies under 12 months do not need snacks; if you think your baby is hungry in between meals, offer extra milk feeds instead.  From 12 months children need a balanced diet of three meals a day and perhaps a snack in the morning and a snack in the afternoon, ideal snacks are suggested above but look out on first steps nutrition here Eating Well resources — First Steps Nutrition Trust for planning a healthy diet for your under fives.


What is fluoride varnish?

From the age of 3, children should be offered fluoride varnish application at least twice a year by your dentist. Younger children may also be offered this treatment if your dentist thinks they need it. 

Fluoride varnish can be applied to both baby teeth and adult teeth. It involves painting a varnish that contains high levels of fluoride onto the surface of the tooth every 6 months to prevent decay. Some children may need this more often. It works by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.


What should my child be using to drink?

Introduce your baby to drinking from a cup or beaker from around 6 months and offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth. Avoid giving juices or adding anything other than breast milk formula or water in bottles. Comfort sucking from a bottle on sweetened drinks causes tooth decay in young children. Drinks flow very slowly through a teat, which means the sugary substance will be in contact with their teeth for longer.

For more information on drinks and cups visit the NHS website Drinks and cups for babies and young children - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Will using a dummy affect my child’s teeth?

Using dummies after 12months of age can encourage an open bite, which is when teeth move to make space for the dummy. They may also affect your child's speech development. Avoid dipping dummies in anything sweet, such as sugar or jam.


Can poor oral health affect my child’s development?

Poor oral health can affect children and young people’s ability to sleep, eat, speak, play, and socialize with other children. Other impacts include pain, infections, poor diet, and impaired nutrition and growth.


Can my child use an electric toothbrush?

The current advice is that children under 3 should use a soft bristle manual toothbrush. When they reach 3 years old an electric toothbrush can be introduced. There are lots of fun models out there to make teeth brushing fun and more interactive – remember an adult should be helping with tooth brushing until at least age 7


How can I help my child who has Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Complex needs)?

Choose the right toothbrush:


Use a small headed toothbrush with the simplest design you can find. Large toothbrushes can feel very intrusive and challenging when working with oral sensitivity.

Super brushes

These are a type of brush that covers the whole tooth in one go and pulls backwards and forwards like a train on a track. These are recommended for when you only have a quick window of opportunity.


Fine filament brushes

These are a type of brush with lots of fine bristles , rather than fewer, chunkier bristles. These feel softer but still clean well, and can help reduce the “scrubbing sensation” of brushing that can be unpleasant for people with oral sensory issues.



Electric brushes clean our teeth well and can be used, but if your child does not like the electric brush you are better off brushing well with a manual brush that is tolerated, than a poor brush with an electric brush if they are upset by the sensation of an electric brush.


Choosing your toothpaste:

Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) free paste

SLS is a foaming agent present in toothpaste- excessive bubbles and foam can be overly stimulating so a non foaming paste can help. A lot of children’s pastes are SLS free, and you can check this by reading the ingredients on the back of the tube.

Choose a good flavour

Mint is very overwhelming- you can get toothpastes that are non foaming AND have the correct levels of fluoride that are fruit flavoured or completely flavour free.


Other tips for success:


Toothbrushing can take place anywhere, so work where your child is most comfortable. In their bedroom, on the sofa, in the bath, pushchair.


Toothbrushing must completed twice a day. One of these must be before bed when no other food or drink (aside from water) will be had, and at one other point during the day. For most of us this is usually first thing in the morning, but this other brush can be at a time that works best for your child’s routine, this could even be lunchtime or afterschool if that’s the only workable options.


Work systematically round the mouth

If you only have a very quick window and only manage to brush one area of the mouth, at each brushing opportunity brush a different area-

eg. in the morning brush the top left, at bedtime brush the top right, the next morning brush the bottom left, and bedtime the bottom right. This will prevent you brushing one area well, while the rest of the mouth is untouched for potentially days at a time.


Physical aids for challenging behaviours:

You can get some aids to help hold open mouths to allow for a good brush. These can be over whelming for people who are very orally sensitive, but can help for individuals who struggle to hold their mouths open.


For more information, please visit https://www.hct.nhs.uk/service-details/service/special-care-dental-service-58/