It's really really important.
Good dental care should begin before your baby's first fangs even appear.
Teeth actually start to form in the first trimester of pregnancy. At
birth, a baby has 20 unerupted teeth lurking in their maw.
So that those little pearly whites emerge pearly and white you
should rub a damp washcloth over gums and tongue to remove bacteria,
ideally every time they eat, but definitely before they go down for
their big sleep at night (even if their big sleep only lasts 4 hours).
By getting into a routine of brushing your baby's gums they should
be familiar with you poking around in there by the time their first
sharp little nibblers break through. When they do emerge you should use
a soft bristled baby brush and gently brush each tooth in a circular
motion, keeping the bristles aiming down towards where the tooth and
gum meet. Whilst you're in there give the tongue a quick once over too.
You don't have to use toothpaste but if you do make sure it's a baby
specific one. When your pookie has teeth that 'meet' each other
flossing should start too. (good luck with that!).
The American Dental Association recommends that babies have their
first visit to the dentist six months after the first tooth/teeth
appear, or at about 1 year as a sort of well-baby checkup.
Yesterday I heard a completely horrific thing from a friend who works as a child carer, one of the little fellow that she works with has had 2 teeth ROT out of his face. He's four. Shiver.
Heh heh. Twisted. 'Chomp' Pacifier, $6.97.