My little girl is seven and has always hated cleaning her teeth. I have to force her to do it and now she’s had to have a tooth removed because of decay. I’ve since stopped her having any sweets but what else can I do to encourage her to look after her teeth?

It is important to start introducing good oral habits in children from a very young age – ideally within six months of their first baby teeth appearing. This creates a familiarity in the child’s mind about dental check-ups and helps create a positive association.

Now that she’s older, your daughter might find an electric toothbrush more fun to use. Also, limit the intake of fermentable carbohydrates such as milk and juices. It’s these sugary liquids that cause cavities and they should be avoided, especially before going to bed.

Incidentally, if children lose a baby tooth early, it is important that they visit a paediatric dentist who needs to check if they require an appliance called a space maintainer. This is used to prevent adjacent teeth from drifting and maintains the space required when the permanent teeth comes in.

Take your daughter for half-yearly check-ups, which might involve a cleaning. The dentist may also recommend local or systemic fluoride treatments and pit and fissure sealants – a protective coating applied to the back teeth to stop food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves and causing decay.