Help for children who struggle to access a dentist

Help for children who struggle to access a dentist

  • If your child’s regular dentist is unable to treat them, they may need a referral to the Community and Special Care Dentistry Service. This service provides dental care in community settings for children and adults who find it difficult to receive treatment in a regular general dental practice, due to their additional needs.

    They look after people with severe learning and/or physical disabilities or mental illness, patients who are elderly or housebound, and those who have a medical condition which affects their dental care. There is more information about the service for patients here:

    How can my child access the service?

    Patients must be referred into the service by a health or social care professional. There are criteria for referrals to be accepted. For children the service will usually accept:

    • Children with additional needs that significantly affects provision of dental care (for example, learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders)
    • Children with severe dental anxiety or other behavioural management difficulty where treatment has already been attempted and preventive care provided. Children will normally be accepted for a single course of treatment but may be offered continuing care if difficulties are ongoing.

    The service recommends that parents take their children to the general dental practice the rest of the family go to in the first instance. If your child finds it difficult to attend the family dentist, then they can be referred to the Community Dental Service.

    Don’t have an NHS dentist? To find a regular dentist you can search Not all dental practices will have capacity to take on new NHS patients. You may have to join a waiting list or look for a different dentist who is taking on new NHS patients.

    In between dental visits it is important to have a good oral hygiene routine at home. Here are some top tips to help your children have a healthy mouth:

    Start brushing early

    • Teeth should be brushed twice a day, once before bed and another time during the day.
    • Children need help with brushing until they are seven years old.

    Eat less sugar

    • Sugary food and drink cause tooth decay.
    • Avoid sugary food and drink before bedtime.
    • Choose healthy snacks between meals.
    • It is best to keep all sugary food and drinks to mealtimes.

    For more information about healthy eating, visit

    Sugar-free medicine

    • Always ask your doctor or pharmacist for sugar-free medicine


    • Your toothpaste needs to contain 1450ppm of fluoride.
    • The amount of fluoride can be found on the side of the tube or packaging.
    • For children under 3 use a smear of toothpaste.
    • For children over 3 use a pea-sized amount.
    • Spit out the toothpaste after brushing and DO NOT rinse.
    • If your child doesn’t like the taste of minty toothpaste, you can get a flavourless toothpaste called Oranurse (see
Page last updated: 7th April 2023