Dental treatment for your baby and child

Bring your child to visit their dentist regularly. This will help them to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Dental check-ups can help to identify dental problems early.

Some dental treatments can help prevent tooth decay and erosion.

Others can fix damaged or decayed (rotten) teeth.

Dental services for children under 16

The HSE offers some dental services free of charge to children up to the age of 16.

These dental services are provided by dentists in local HSE dental clinics.

Contact your local HSE dental clinic for further information on available services.

Routine dental treatment

The HSE offers free a dental appointment to:

  • all children in certain classes in primary school
  • children with special needs

A follow up appointment for preventative care or treatment will be made with your local HSE dental clinic, if needed.

Children outside of these classes will only be seen by the HSE dental clinic for emergency treatment.

Emergency dental care for children

All children aged under 16 years of age are entitled to emergency treatment.

Call your local HSE dental clinic for emergency treatment.

First dentist appointment

Take your baby to the dentist when their first teeth appear at around 6 months.

Your dentist will check that their teeth are developing correctly. They will show you how to care for your baby's teeth.

They can also give advice on how to help with problems such as teething.

Injuries to baby teeth

If your baby injures their mouth or teeth in a fall or accident, take them to a dentist to be checked.

Falls or injuries can loosen, break, knock out or push a baby tooth up into the gum. This might damage the developing adult teeth.

Dental check-ups

Take your child for regular dental check-ups. This may be every 3, 6 or 12 months, depending on if there are signs of tooth decay. Ask your dentist what they recommend.

Take your child with you when you go to your own dentist appointments. Get them used to the sights and sounds of a dental surgery. This will help them feel comfortable when they have to go for their own appointments.

What happens during a dental check-up

At each check-up, your dentist should:

  • examine your child's teeth, gums and mouth
  • ask about their general health and any problems they've had with their teeth, mouth or gums since their last visit
  • ask about and give you advice on their diet and teeth cleaning habits
  • discuss a date for their next visit

Dental procedures

Your child may need other appointments for:

  • preventative advice and treatment
  • other dental treatments such as cleaning of teeth, fillings or tooth extraction (removal)

Teeth cleaning

A dentist or dental hygienist can clean and polish your child's teeth and help remove plaque.

Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that develops when bacteria builds up on teeth. Removing it helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Looking after your child's teeth

Dental x-ray

Dental x-rays are images that help your dentist see the condition of your teeth and mouth.

A dentist uses a dental x-ray to:

  • check for holes or decay in the teeth
  • make sure that the teeth are developing in the correct position

Fillings

If your child has tooth decay, they might need a filling. This involves removing the decay inside the tooth and filling the hole.

If the hole is not filled, bacteria will be able to enter the tooth. This could lead to an infection.

Fixing cavities in baby teeth

If your child develops a cavity in one or more of their baby teeth, you should talk to your dentist. Cavities in baby teeth can lead to infections.

It's common for babies with a cavity to have a dental filling.

Tooth extraction

Sometimes, 1 or more of your child's teeth may need to be extracted (taken out). This may be because they are decayed beyond repair. It can also be because your child's mouth is overcrowded.

Extraction will be carried out using local anaesthetic. This is painkilling medicine to numb the tooth, gum and surrounding area. Your child will be awake, but they will not feel any pain.

In some cases, your dentist may recommend a general anaesthetic. This is used to send your child to sleep so that they do not feel any pain or move around during the procedure.

Fissure sealants

Sometimes, children have deep fissures (crevices) or very uneven surfaces in their back teeth (molars).

This makes it easier for tiny bits of food to get trapped in their back teeth. If your child does not brush their teeth properly, bacteria may start to build up and cause tooth decay.

A fissure sealant is a plastic coating that creates a seal on the biting surface of teeth. This can help to prevent tooth decay.

Applying the sealant is quick and painless.

The sealant will generally last for several years. A dentist or dental hygienist can top up or replace these sealants when needed.

Braces

As your child develops you may be worried about the position or crowding of your child's teeth. Your dentist will tell you if your child might benefit from having their teeth straightened (orthodontic treatment).

Braces are used for straightening teeth as part of orthodontic treatment. If your child needs to see a dental specialist called an orthodontist your dentist can refer you.

Your child may want to get braces for cosmetic reasons (to improve appearance). This kind of treatment is normally only provided privately - this means you'll have to pay for it.

Find a list of specialist orthodontists - dentalcouncil.ie

Orthodontic treatment and braces provided by the HSE

Cross Border Directive (CBD) scheme

Your child can also get braces under the Cross Border Directive (CBD) scheme.

The CBD scheme allows you to get healthcare in another EU or EEA country. You need to meet certain criteria to get healthcare under the CBD.

Orthodontic treatment under the CBD

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 22 February 2022
Next review due: 22 February 2025