Do you know that it’s important to start your baby’s oral hygiene routine even before they’ve grown any teeth?Before you whip out the toothbrush and toothpaste, there are many ways for you to start your child’s dental health routine.

While a child can’t get cavities until their teeth are exposed through their gum lines, it’s sometimes difficult to identify when they really start to grow in. Babies will start “budding” before you know it, but you can start taking action well before this happens. Here are some tips:

1) Never use toothpaste or mouthwash on a toothless infant. Until your child starts budding teeth, dampen a clean washcloth or piece of gauze and gently wipe your baby’s gums. .  Do this after feedings and right before bedtime.This wipes away bacteria that might start multiplying otherwise. If left unattended, these bacteria can cause tooth decay in those baby teeth.

2) Once their teeth start to “bud,” your infant is ready for their first toothbrush. You don’t need anything fancy, just a small, soft-bristled brush with a handle long enough for you to comfortably use. Start with a very small amount of toothpaste, and as more of their teeth grow  you can increase that amount. If you are looking for safer or more sensitive toothpastes, there are many different brands of toothpaste that are made especially for babies.

3) Look out for signs of tooth decay. Even if you don’t see anything concerning, it’s still a good idea to take your child to a dentist before their first birthday. Starting early will give your child a healthy mouth, and get them used to a brushing routine that can help them transition into independent brushing more easily.

Even if your child doesn’t yet have teeth, oral hygiene is an essential part of their routine. If you have concerns, always consult a pediatrician. A jumpstart to a healthy smile will help them in the short term, and lay the foundation for years to come.