KidsYour child’s dental health

At Swords Dentist we believe that good oral hygiene habits should start early. You will find details about looking after your child’s teeth here. Please click on the relevant sections in the list below.

Book your child’s checkup

If you have any further questions or wish to set up an appointment for you and your family, please call us:

01 840 2971

If you are trying to contact out of hours and would like to book an appointment, please use our online booking system.

First dental visit

A child’s first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable and positive. The more you are prepared for the first visit, the better armed you are to help us make the first visit a pleasant one. Children are not born with fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. We have a policy of using pleasant, non-frightening and simple words to describe your child’s first dental visit and we have trained our staff to also use these techniques in assisting us with the anxious child. We suggest the use of childrens pictures and books which confirm to your child that visits to the dentist are a pleasant experience. It is important that your childs newly erupted teeth receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.

When should your child have their first dental visit?

We recommend that you bring your child to see us at the age of 2 ½ years old. Decay can develop very quickly and easily in baby teeth and often can only be detected by a dentist. Prevention of dental decay is ideal. Early detection is very important as it simplifies treatment and allows you, the parent, to change habits at a young age with our guidance to establish better dental health for your child.

What will happen during my child’s first dental visit?

We strongly encourage you to have a positive attitude to your child’s first dental visit and indeed any subsequent visits. Your child should have no reason to fear this visit and it should be fun for them. They should be told they will have their teeth counted and polished. Our staff are very well trained in dealing with and making them comfortable in our practice. We often use books and toys to facilitate us. Remember to set a good example. If your child sees you brush and floss daily, then they will be encouraged by this. If you make regular dental check-ups part of your routine, then your child will do this also.

Dental care at home

Good oral hygiene habits should start early

Now that your baby has arrived, it is important to establish good dental habits early. Your baby will mimic the parents behaviour so it important to set a good example. Here we have outlined some helpful tips to get you started.

Even your newborns’ mouth needs to be cleaned regardless of whether they have teeth or not. From an early age, you should encourage your child to brush their teeth twice each day-once in the morning after breakfast and once at night time before bed. This should be increased to three times each day as they get older. We suggest using a soft bristle brush with water only for your baby until 2 ½ years old. From 2 ½ until 8 years old, we recommend supervised brushing with a low level fluoride childrens toothpaste using a pea size amount. For the remainder of their life, we recommend adult toothpaste, again a pea size amount and brushing three times daily. The brushing technique will be reviewed if necessary on your visit to the dentist with your child.

Caring for your babys’ gums

Even before your babys’ first tooth appears, their gums can benefit from careful attention. After feeding your baby, wrap one finger with a clean, damp cloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gums. This will clear the mouth of any fragments and begins the process of building a good habit of daily dental care. This also allows you to ‘inspect’ your childs mouth for any changes such as new teeth or grazes.

Baby’s first tooth

When the first tooth makes an appearance, it is time to upgrade the dental hygiene for your baby. We suggest a baby toothbrush which has a very small head with a small number of soft bristles. We recommend you do not use toothpaste at this stage, instead, just dip the toothbrush in fresh clean water before brushing. Use very gentle pressure on your babys’ gums and teeth. If your baby is not accepting this very well, go back to using the damp cloth for a month before returning to the toothbrush again. While your baby is teething, they like to chew on just about anything including the toothbrush!

Brushing with toothpaste

At the age of 2 ½, your child should have their full set of ‘baby’ or ‘milk’ teeth. This is a good time to start using childrens toothpaste on their toothbrush. Childrens toothpaste contains a lower level of fluoride and has a milder taste. Use just a small amount on the brush-less than a pea size is adequate. From the beginning, encourage and teach your child to spit out the toothpaste and rinse well after brushing. Swallowing toothpaste should be discouraged at all times. You should brush their teeth with their ‘help’ until 7-8 years old. At this stage they should progress  to brushing their own teeth. They will also progress to using adult toothpaste at around the age of 8 years old.

Discouraging thumb sucking and restrict the use of soothers

While these provide a huge comfort for the child (and lets be honest, for the parents too), they come with their problems. Our biggest concern is that they cause your child’s jaws and teeth to become much more prominent.

The battle with the soother and thumb sucking habits are common problems we have to deal with. Your child has an instinctive sucking reflex and will develop these habits very quickly. We suggest discouraging thumb sucking in particular as this is not something you can ‘take away’ at any time! We recommend that if your child is to have a soother, you do so in a disciplined fashion and always remember this will need to be discarded at 12 months old. We may be able to give you some tips or hints as to how you may achieve this.

Do not dip your childs soother into sugar or sugary drinks to help avoid cavities.

Preventing cavities

Start early. Encourage good habits and discourage bad habits with your child from the start. Restrict the amount and the frequency of sugary drinks which your child receives. There are natural sugars in fruit juices, milk, formula etc which are part of every childs normal diet so with this in mind, it is important not to expose your child to excessive ‘sugar attacks’. Restrict the frequency which your child drinks sugary drinks. If possible, encourage consumption of these damaging drinks with meals and also discourage sipping the drinks slowly over a long period of time… less damage will occur if the sugary drink is consumed in a shorter time. Also encourage drinking water more often from a young age.

Do not allow your baby to go to bed with a bottle of milk or sugary drink… this will allow ‘baby bottle tooth decay’ to develop. Water in the bottle will be less harmful.

Does my child need fissure sealants?

We place a very strong emphasis on all aspects of prevention in dentistry. For your child, one aspect of this is placing fissure sealants on selected teeth at an appropriate time. Your child’s first permanent molar tooth is the most commonly treated tooth-this erupts at 6 years old approximately and is most susceptible to decay during the course of your childs lifetime.

Dental emergencies

If you find you and your child are faced with a dental emergency, contact us immediately. We do provide an emergency out-of-hours service for patients of our practice. Below are tips on dealing with urgent more common dental emergency situations.

Broken, chipped or fractured teeth

  • If your child has chipped or broken a piece off their tooth, find the piece of tooth if possible.
  • It is important to ensure that they have not inhaled the piece.
  • If you find it, bring it with you on their subsequent visit with us.

Loose tooth/teeth

  • If this is trauma induced, CALL US IMMEDIATELY
  • If this is due to natural loss of the baby teeth, try to remove the tooth painlessly to avoid inhalation.
  • Otherwise, call us to schedule an appointment..


How do you know your child may have a toothache? An older child will tell you. However, a younger child will not always be able to describe the problem.

Look for the following symptoms/signs:

  • Altered eating pattern, loss of appetite, avoiding eating on one side
  • Altered sleeping pattern, waking up crying during the night
  • High temperature
  • Look for signs of broken teeth inside the mouth
  • Repeatedly refusing to allow brushing of teeth in one area

You should give your child a spoonful of pain reliever and schedule an appointment with as soon as possible.

Dental Traumas & Sports Injuries

It is very common for babies who have just begun to walk to sustain dental injuries as they are still a little unsteady. Should this unfortunate situation arise, CALL US IMMEDIATELY, stay calm, reassure and comfort your child, giving them a spoonful of pain relief medicine as soon as they are calm enough to take it.

Sports injuries are common:

25% of children will have suffered a sports injury before 15 years old. We urge you to take all available precautions to help prevent your child sustaining any serious injuries. These include insisting on the use of appropriate safety equipment such as helmets and sports mouthguards. The latter are available both across the counter and custom made here in the surgery.

We recommend the use of custom made mouthguards as they are more secure and afford better protection for your child. The fit of these should be reassessed regularly as your child continues to grow and develop.

A recent study suggests that a well fitting mouthguard may help prevent concussion and reduce the incidence of fracture of the jaw. In the event of a sports injury, early intervention is crucial so please CALL US IMMEDIATELY


Below you will find the answers to some questions you may have in relation to your childs dental health. These are questions commonly asked by parents.

When should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?

We recommend that your child should have their first dental visit at approximately 2 ½ years old. At this age they should have a full set of baby teeth and they are beginning to understand more. We place a huge importance on your child having a pleasant first visit and not present for the first time with a toothache. We recommend an appointment early in the day when your child is not tired and has had a light meal before hand.

What happens during my child’s first visit?

We focus on our dental team getting to know you and your child and we spend lot of time with each of you giving you relevant guidelines on good dental care. We will help to make your child comfortable with our friendly professional atmosphere while they have their teeth ‘counted’. We then polish the teeth-reinforcing the need for good dental hygiene. Finally, some time is allowed for the parent and the dentist to discuss any issues that may have arisen out of the consultation along with any other queries. Should a further visit be required, this can be done at this point.

How can I prepare my child for their first dental visit?

Maintain a positive attitude. Do not let your child know you may be apprehensive. Show your child some of the pictures of our surgery and the team on this web-site. Tell them they will be having their teeth counted by the dentist. In our experience, the timing of the appointment is very important as your child may be tired at the end of the day.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

This will vary in each individual circumstance but in general we recommend a check visit every six months.

Baby teeth are not permanent – why do they need any care?

Prevention is always best. In caring for your childs teeth you will help prevent them from suffering the unpleasant experience of a toothache. Also your childs first set of teeth play an important role in their growth and development. Early loss of baby teeth may affect the childs speech and their diet may be restricted-so affecting their overall health. The baby teeth act to hold the space open for the permanent adult teeth to grow in to. Early loss of one of these first set of teeth will result in other nearby teeth closing the space which can lead to an adult tooth being trapped in the gum requiring surgical intervention in the early teenage years

At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?

When your child is 2 ½ you can use childrens toothpaste to clean their teeth. Use a soft bristle toothbrush with only a pea size amount of childrens toothpaste on the brush. You should brush their teeth for them until 6-7 years old at which point you should start to teach them to do it for themselves. At approx 8-9 years old, they should progress to adult toothpaste. You should ensure they do not swallow toothpaste and they should rinse their mouth well with water after brushing.

What causes cavities?

Certain types of bacteria live in our mouth. When we eat sugary food, these bacteria live on the sugars left behind on our teeth and they produce acids. These acids attack the enamel on our teeth eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in our teeth. These holes we call ‘cavities’

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Avoid sugary foods, restrict snacking and encourage a healthy diet discourage drinking or eating sugary foods after brushing at bed-time. Make sure your child brushes their teeth at least twice a day. Lastly bring your child for regular dental check-ups so that problems can be detected early and indeed avoided.

Does my child need fissure sealants?

We place a very strong emphasis on all aspects of prevention in dentistry. For your child, one aspect of this is placing fissure sealants on selected teeth at an appropriate time. See our section on ‘fissure sealants’. Your childs first permanent molar tooth is the most commonly treated tooth-this erupts at 6 years old approximately and is most susceptible to decay during the course of your childs lifetime.

My child plays sport, what precautions should I take?

We recommend the use of any available safety equipment for all sports. This includes a custom made mouthguard which should fit well. As your child is growing and developing, the mouthguard will need to be checked regularly and be re-made at intervals to ensure maximum benefit of a well fitting appliance. This will help to prevent against expensive and painful injuries.

At what age should I consider orthodontic treatment for my child?

If your child is attending our practice on an ongoing basis, at every visit, they will be assessed and reviewed for their orthodontic needs. The average age we tend to have the child assessed by a qualified recognised orthodontist is between 10-10 ½ years old. In a rare number of cases, a child can benefit from a full assessment earlier than this. In some cases, later assessment can be too late. So we recommend start early.