When it comes to ensuring healthy teeth and gums, experts say that instilling good habits from an early age can create a blueprint for a lifetime of dental health. It may come as a surprise to parents that the American Dental Association would like children to make their first visit before their first birthday – or within six months of cutting their first tooth.

A pediatric dentist is specially trained to work on children’s mouths and will be able to provide important information about diet, tooth brushing, bottles and the use of fluoride. Once a child’s teeth start coming in, parents should show them how to brush, using a soft children’s toothbrush twice per day.

As they reach preschool age, a small amount of fluoride toothpaste should be added to the brush. Teaching the child to properly spit afterward will help prevent them from swallowing too much fluoride. Even before a baby’s first teeth emerge, the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that parents wipe their infant’s gums with a soft, wet cloth after each feeding to prevent the build-up of bacteria.