Conditions

Dental Hygiene

Tooth decay

If you believe the Hollywood movies, we Brits are notorious for our bad teeth, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Good dental hygiene begins as soon as kids’ milk teeth arrive, and teaching children how to look after their gnashers at an early age will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Milk teeth start to develop at six months and by three years old most children will have all 20. Over the next nine years these will be replaced by the 32 adult teeth, though wisdom teeth (the big ones at the back) can come later. Apart from their obvious function – allowing us to chew up our food – teeth enable kids to speak clearly, form facial expressions, and are important in how they feel about their appearance. The NHS reports that kids’ dental health is currently at an all time high, yet tooth decay is still an extremely common, serious, but preventable complaint. So how do you make sure your child’s teeth stay strong and healthy, and what sort of problems can arise?

The single most essential practice in looking after kids’ teeth is keeping them clean. Start brushing milk teeth at least twice a day, as soon as they appear, and from two years make sure kids see a dentist twice a year. Milk teeth start to fall out at around six years and since the new set needs to last us a lifetime, it’s vital to look after them.

Tooth decay is caused by plaque, which is a general build-up of unswallowed food, saliva and bacteria that ends up clinging to the teeth. Plaque can become a more solid substance called tartar which contains acids that eat away at the teeth to create cavities (holes). Sugary or starchy food and drinks accelerate the creation of plaque, and if the teeth aren’t kept clean decay can begin very quickly – even though your child doesn’t notice it. That can lead not only to toothache, but also toand gum disease, which jeopardises even healthy teeth.

If your child has a toothache that isn’t a consequence of milk teeth falling out, always take them to the dentist. With a good diet, proper hygiene and regular attention, tooth decay is one condition in kids that is simple and easy to prevent.

What the Men in White Coats Say

Comments and Questions

Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.

My six year old son was told by the dentist that he has to have four back teeth taken out and have some feelings I thought the children at the age of six with baby teeth didn't have to have fillings is this true?





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.


Please don't swear or be rude in your answers, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting answers. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

My 8 yr old has green colour plaque appearing on his bottom 4 middle teeth. I can't brush is off and it's a real green colour, like I've never seen before. Could it be a defiency possibly?





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.


Please don't swear or be rude in your answers, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting answers. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hi, I've noticed that the gums on some of my teeth are really high, is this normal? :s





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.


Please don't swear or be rude in your answers, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting answers. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I'm 13 and the gum behind my back bottom tooth (both sides) is swollen, and around the tooth there are parts where I can pull the gum away, it hurts when I eat and I'm scared its gum disease?





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.


Please don't swear or be rude in your answers, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting answers. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

im 13 and my tooth started to come out in really little pieces and now ive got a little whole in my tooth why is this?and should i get it checked out???





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I'm 13 and I have two filling in my back teeth. My friends keep saying that I must be really unhealthy because I do, though is having two fillings really bad for a 13 year old? I'm always worried about them. Please help :(





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

its really long, but please read and help. im 14, i just had a scale and polish at the dentist for the first time and i now have a gap in between my bottom front teeth, its like 2cm! and also, all my other teeth are fine but it feels and looks like all the calculus has just been moves to the back of my bottom front teeth! its really rough against my tongue, its so uncomfartable. how can i get rid of the calculus? i brush my teeth after breakfast, lunch and before i go to bed, i mouthwash when i get up and before i go to bed, i occasionally floss, too. but i hate my teeth so much, its only the bottom front teeth that are horrible and its really embarrassing and it ruins my social life where im so shy. i know its long, please help:(





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I am 21 years old and I kept going to the dentist last yr because my teeth were aching n he said that there was nothing wrong but I knew there was , it took me a while to get in to another NHS dentist but when I did he told me I had gingivitis so they cleaned my teeth and told me to brush them twice a day , use mouth wash and floss , so I did , only to find a couple of month later my teeth are starting to twist and my gums are aching so much. So I went back and he put some stuff on my teeth to stop the aching what did work for a while , but I don't understand why my teeth are twisting , I am so scared of loosing them!!!





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hi I'm 21 years old, lately when brushing my teeth I noticed the top of my gum has gone red and hurts to brush it, then after that abit on My bottom gum has done the same! Any help?? I'm not registered with a dentist!!





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

My son is 9years old and has beautiful white teeth but I've noticed recently he's grinding them in his sleep and it looks like he's wearing them away, what shall I do?.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.


Please don't swear or be rude in your answers, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting answers. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines


Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.


If you want to embed our videos in your site, read our embedding T&Cs here


More Information

  1. Dribbling

    In Conditions - All babies and young childen dribble or drool until they learn to s…

  2. Mouth Ulcers

    In Conditions - The mouth is one of the most sensitive areas of the body so when ki…

  3. Vitamin Deficiencies

    In Conditions - Vitamins are vital for the development of the brain as well as the…

  4. Should We Be Worried? - Stomach Complaints

    In Videos - Stomach complaints and nausea, both mild and serious, are Dr Christ…


More Information

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Tooth decay does not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced and serious stage. This is why it is important to have regular check-ups as it is much easier to successfully treat tooth decay when it is in its early stages. Read More »