“At this young age it’s about forming habits,” says Mary Bertone, a board member for the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. Bertone also educates parenting groups through her work with the Centre for Community Oral Health at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Wipe down your baby’s mouth with a soft cloth several times a day after feeding, she says. Once the first tooth erupts, clean it twice a day with a finger brush. There’s no need for toothpaste, just gently rub the bristles around any teeth.
The CDA encourages parents to book a baby’s first dental visit within six months of the first tooth appearring, or by the first birthday. And never, ever send your baby to bed with a soother dipped in honey or with a bottle of milk — breastmilk, cow’s milk and formula all contain sugars that will linger in the child’s mouth. A bottle or sippy cup of water is OK.
A version of this article appeared in our April 2012 issue with the headline: Million Dollar Smile (p. 101). See more from this article in our Oral Care guide.