Millions of British children are about to join their classmates with pristine uniforms, shiny shoes, fresh stationery sets and as yet unmuddied PE kit. But the UK’s leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is worried that too many children will head off to school missing one vitally important piece of kit; a clean and healthy mouth.

During the morning school rush there’s a real chance that many children don’t spend enough time brushing their teeth. Or decide to grab a sugary snack on their way out of the door. Sadly, stats show just under one in three (31%) children start their school lives with tooth decay.

This is appalling because every single case of tooth decay is completely avoidable. The good news is that by educating children properly from an early age, we can help to keep their teeth top of the class.

Here are our simple steps to make sure children’s teeth get top marks:

Start early: This is vitally important as it sets them up for life. As soon as your baby’s teeth come through you should brush them every day. Also, make an appointment with a dentist to make sure everything is developing okay and get tips on how to look after your little one’s teeth. Making tooth-brushing a family activity is a great way to help young children understand the importance of a healthy mouth.

Two minutes twice a day: The most basic rule – brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste. For parents, it’s a good idea to watch your children until they are confident they can be trusted to brush for the full two minutes unsupervised. This usually happens around the age of seven.

Tasty tooth times: Children are often fussy about flavours of food that they eat. The flavour of toothpaste is no different, so let them pick one they like. Make sure you choose a toothpaste with the right amount of fluoride in it, no matter what flavour it is. All children up to three years old, should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old, they should use toothpaste that contains 1350ppm-1500ppm.

Dietary duty: Educating on diet is important too. Get your kids to pack their own healthy lunch and snacks for school. Avoid sugary foods and drinks and instead opt for breadsticks, vegetables and even cheese, which is a great choice as it helps remove harmful acid. Your kids get a better idea of what is healthy and what is not, helping not only their oral health but overall health.

The best brush: Choose a small-to-medium-sized toothbrush with soft-to-medium bristles. This is the perfect size for your child’s mouth. Don’t forget to replace the toothbrush regularly, when the bristles become worn, and after illness.

The last straw: Try to teach your children on the best healthy drinks to have in their lunchboxes, such as water and milk. If they do have sugary drinks, teach them to use a straw when drinking. This helps sugar and acid in the drink go to the back of their mouth and reduces the number of bacteria attacks on their teeth.