Here are oral health guidelines for parents based on recent Canadian Dental Association publications, studies and Health Canada recommendations, as outlined by Michelle Fowler, President of Canadian Dental Assistants’ Association.

Pregnancy: “Baby’s teeth actually start to develop as early as the first trimester,” Michelle Fowler explains. Pregnant mothers should maintain a healthy diet rich in Vitamins A, C, and D with plenty of protein and calcium. Poor dietary and oral hygiene habits may disrupt the baby’s enamel formation as well as leading to low birth weight.

1-3 months: Even before teeth appear, maintain good oral health by wiping the inside of the mouth with a wash cloth after each feeding.

3-6 months: “A tooth can start to decay as soon as it appears in the mouth,” Fowler says. So begin introducing a toothbrush into the mouth and brush teeth gently with water. When the first tooth comes in, you can also bring the baby in for their first dentist appointment to check the overall health of the oral cavity.

6-12 months: Begin transitioning from bottles to sippy cups. “You don’t want to put babies to bed with a bottle or a sippy cup unless it only has water in it,” says Fowler. Limit juices and sweet drinks to just four ounces per day.

1 year: Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day with a small, thin layer of fluoridated toothpaste. Floss once a day. Choose healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cheese to promote good oral health.

Maintenance: Bring your child to the dentist at least once a year. Parents should continue to brush their children’s teeth until the age of seven or eight, when hand dexterity has developed sufficiently to brush their own teeth.