Infant dental care begins even before the first tooth emerges. By cleaning gums with a moist washcloth or gauze a minimum of once per day, parents help their children acclimate to the feeling of having their teeth cleaned. This process also serves to remove bacteria from the gum line before it can become plaque, which poses a decay risk to emerging teeth.
When a baby begins to teethe, the parent can begin using a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and long handle. Experts recommend only an extremely small amount of toothpaste in the first three years of life, though water is acceptable if the child cannot tolerate the sensation or taste of toothpaste.
Parents should take care to clean all surfaces of the baby's teeth, including the back, and should continue to perform the brushing until the child has the fine motor control to do so him or herself. This typically occurs around the age of 3 years old. However, the child is likely to need adult supervision until around the age of 6 years old, when he or she develops the ability to rinse and spit independently.