It's never too early to care for your baby's gums and teeth. They may be small and appear like they won't last for long, but baby teeth enable children to chew solid food and speak clearly, and serve as placeholders for adult teeth. Keeping their teeth decay-free starts long before a tooth bud pops up through the gums.

Cleaning the Baby's Gums

In infancy as in adulthood, healthy gums make healthy teeth. Parents are not yet at that stage when they need to worry about what the child eats and whether the child's diet will give her tooth decay, but they should remember that, to prevent cavities, the baby's bottle should only be filled with breast milk, formula or water. No fruit juices or any sugary drinks that may produce acid.

Infant oral care will not yet involve toothpaste and toothbrush. A soft, moistened piece of gauze or washcloth should do. This gum cleaner need to be gently wiped on the baby's gums at least twice a day, particularly after feedings and before bed time. This is to wash off bacteria that feed off on sugars and result to sticky plaque that ruins infant teeth as they come out.

Brushing Baby Teeth

It can take two years for your child to grow all of her baby teeth, but you can take the child to a pediatric dentist as early as age one.

As soon as the first teeth come up, you can graduate to using toothbrush and toothpaste. But as you will be brushing your baby’s teeth, you will need to use a fingertip toothbrush that also works well in massaging your baby’s gums. As the child grows, the toothbrush needs to have a soft brush, a small head and a large enough handle for a small hand to grasp. The need for toothpaste will come later; at first, just wet the toothbrush and brush gently the front and back of your baby's teeth. Once the teeth fully erupt, you can have a bit of toothpaste on the brush the size of a grain of rice. By the time the child is three years old, you can start using pea-sized fluoride toothpaste.

It won't be until your child is able to rinse and spit on her own that you can stop brushing your child's teeth yourself. This level of independence in oral care usually comes at around age six, but you should act sooner when you see brown or white spots or pits on the teeth, which are usually signs of baby tooth decay. Going to the dentist for an exam helps parents not only in identifying and treating potential dental problems but also in addressing other problems that could affect dental development like teething and thumb sucking.