Looking after your teeth - Designed to Smile

Looking after the health of your mouth and teeth is important whatever your age.

Designed to Smile is a national programme to improve the oral health of children in Wales. It is funded by the Welsh Government and was launched in 2009. All of the Designed to Smile services and all NHS dental treatments for children are FREE.

Designed to Smile is:

A preventative programme for children from birth:
This involves a wide range of professionals, including health visitors and other early years services. The aims are to help start good habits early by giving advice to families with young children, providing toothbrushes and toothpaste, and encouraging going to a dental practice before a child’s first birthday.

A preventative programme for Nursery and Primary School children:
This involves the delivery of nursery and school-based toothbrushing and fluoride varnish programmes for children to help protect teeth against decay

Before Designed to Smile began in 2009 about half of five year olds in Wales had tooth decay. That figure had hardly changed for 10 years, and yet tooth decay is an almost completely preventable disease. Now it’s down to a third, and we have seen reductions across the board. Tooth decay is a particular problem for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and dental disease levels in children in Wales continue to improve across all social groups. The latest survey shows a 13.4% reduction in the proportion of children with decay. In absolute terms the most deprived fifth of children has seen the largest reduction of 15% in decay prevalence. Very importantly there is no evidence of an increase in inequalities.For more information about Designed to Smile click here

Tooth decay causes difficulties eating, smiling and sleeping, and sometimes results in teeth being removed under general anaesthetic


Bad toothache can mean missing school or work and stop you enjoying social events with family and friends.

  • Cut down on foods and drinks high in sugar. To help you achieve this download the Change4Life Food Scanner app, which reveals the sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories in everyday foods and drinks or look at the labelling on the pack and aim for mostly ‘greens’ and ‘ambers.’
  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste - one of these times should be before bed.
  • Brushing should be for 2 minutes each time.
  • Spit out after brushing but don’t rinse so that the toothpaste can keep working.
  • Visit a dentist and go as often as they advise - usually once or twice a year unless you have a problem with your teeth. 

  • Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies so breastfeed if you can.
  • Sugar should not be added to weaning foods or drinks.
  • Brushing should start as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Children should be helped to brush their teeth or supervised up to the age of 7.
  • The easiest way to brush a baby's teeth is to sit them on your knee, with their head resting against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head backwards.
  • Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to keep trying. Make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.
  • Take children to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and go as often as their dentist recommends. It's free for children up to 18 to see an NHS dentist and it's also free for pregnant women up until their child is one.
  • Use a smear of toothpaste (up to 3 years) or a pea sized amount (3-6 year olds).
  • Children up to 3 should use a toothpaste with at least 1,000ppm fluoride. Children over 3 should use a toothpaste with more than 1,350 ppm fluoride. After 7 years old an adult toothpaste can be used.
  • Sugar-free medicines should be used where possible (until 7 years of age).
  • Use a child's toothbrush – they have soft bristles and a small head.

Improving the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of expectant mothers, infants, children and young people throughout Aneurin Bevan University Health Board Area.

(N.B: The Family and Therapies team at ABUHB is NOT responsible for the content on the webpage links that we refer to in our resource sections and linked information to external sites. All information was accurate and appropriate at the time the webpage was created.)

Accessibility tools