iStock_000018587545SmallOral health care begins even before a child gets the first tooth.

After each feeding, clean your infant’s gums with a damp washcloth to remove plaque and food residue. As soon as the teeth erupt, they should be cleaned with a soft washcloth or baby toothbrush and water, or a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle, unless it is filled with water. Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when children sleep with residual liquids in their mouths including milk, breast milk, formula, juice, or other sweet liquids.

Begin teaching your child proper brushing and flossing techniques at age 2 or 3. Brushing will clean the natural spaces between the teeth, but areas where the teeth touch need daily flossing. Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.

Schedule your child for regular dental visits, starting at around age 3, to watch for cavities and developmental problems. Early visits help create a positive experience, making future visits happy ones.