As soon as you see your baby's first tooth appear then you must establish a tooth care regime. Here are some tips.

When will her first teeth come through?

Your baby is born with teeth in place in her gums, which will usually start to come through at about six months, although it varies from baby to baby. Some still have no teeth at one year, but most of her teeth will be through when she's two and a half. Teething has no bearing on general development. Girls often teethe earlier than boys and if you were a late teether, your baby may be as well. Although they come out at different rates, her teeth will usually appear in the same pattern.

When should I start brushing her teeth?

As soon as your baby's first teeth appear, you should start 'brushing' twice a day – first use your finger with a pea-sized blob of children's toothpaste, then a baby toothbrush and toothpaste at about 18 months old. Remember to brush after the last drink of the day.

The aim of brushing is to remove any plaque, which could combine with sugary substances in the mouth to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Healthy first teeth are important as they will keep your child's gums and jaw in good shape, ready for her second teeth. Toothache or the removal of decayed teeth can also be painful and upsetting for your child, and can be so easily avoided.

As your child gets older let her have a go at brushing her own teeth. Make sure she doesn't eat toothpaste as too much floride is bad for the teeth – when she's finished show her how to rinse her mouth with water.

You will need to clean your child's teeth for her or supervise brushing until she is around seven years old.

How do I make brushing fun?

Try these tactics to avoid tooth-brushing tantrums:

  • Let her choose her own toothbrush – there are lots of fun designs

  • Ask her to clean your teeth while you clean hers!

  • Let her watch herself in the mirror while she's brushing

When should she first visit the dentist?

If possible, it's a good idea to take your toddler with you whenever you go yourself, as this will let her get used to the environment and make it seem less scary. Ask other parents or your baby health nurse if they can recommend a child-friendly dentist in your area: stickers and smiles will make a big difference to your toddler's enthusiasm for a visit to the dentist!

What foods are good for teeth?

The more sweet, sticky foods your child has, the more deposits form on the teeth.

Try to:

  • Give your child milk or cooled boiled tap water to drink between meals

  • Avoid baby foods with added sugar or concentrated fruit juice

  • Ask your pharmacist for sugar-free medicines

  • Watch out for hidden sugars in prepared foods – check the list of ingredients

  • Wean your baby onto a spouted cup at six months as drinking from a bottle increases the risk of tooth damage

  • Avoid sugary snacks between meals. If she does have sugary foods, try to give them only at meal times, and clean her teeth afterwards.