Taking his first step, saying her first word, getting his first tooth – these little things can instill joy in any caretaker.

But with each new development comes an extra layer of responsibility.

Your child’s oral hygiene is no exception, according to sources.

“Guardians should begin taking care of children’s teeth as soon as the teeth are present in the mouth,” said Carole Hanes, a professor in Georgia Regents University’s pediatric dentistry department.

Primary or “baby” teeth tend to appear between the ages of six months to one year, according to the American Dental Association.

“These teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt,” said Tara Schafer, board certified pediatric dentist and the Georgia Regents University’s pediatric dentistry residency director.

Children, however, are not usually able to brush on their own until their manual dexterity is stimulated.

“It is recommended supervised brushing be continued until the child has learned to tie his/her shoes, write in cursive or some similar indicator of increased fine motor skills,” Schafer said.

Some tips to consider before your child gets to that point are:

• Either brush his teeth with an appropriate toothbrush or “use a soft cloth like a washcloth wrapped around two fingers to carefully wipe off the teeth, especially at night before the child is put to bed,” Hanes said.

• Use non-fluoridated toothpaste until the child learns not to swallow the toothpaste. After that point, switch to fluoridated toothpaste, Hanes said.

• When the child is younger than 2, use just a tab of toothpaste. When the child is among the ages of 2 to 5, increase that size to just a “pea-size,” Schafer said.

• Teach the child by letting her watch you brush your teeth or with assistance from a children’s book, Hanes suggested.

After they can brush their teeth, keep them doing it daily, Schafer said.

Some ways to motivate them can include:

• Letting them pick out their own toothpastes and toothbrushes, Schafer said.

• Buy an appropriate-sized electric toothbrush with a built-in timer, Hanes said.

• Let your child brush his teeth with you, and turn this joint experience into a game, Hanes added.

Your child’s trips to the dentist are recommended soon after he gets his first tooth.

Plus, an early start can provide him with a “dental home,” Hanes said.

When teeth is not properly taken care of, the child can get cavities and/or gingivitis, Schafer said.

If a child’s cavities go untreated, an infection can form and spread throughout the body.

Other diseases like measles also have symptoms that can appear in the mouth, Schafer said.

One way to prevent this condition is give the child a bottle of water or have them drink only water at night, Hanes said.

For concerns or questions, consult a pediatric dentist.

For more information, visit www.ada.org.

Stephanie Turner graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012. She then signed on with the Aiken Standard, where she is now the arts and entertainment reporter.