A collaboration between Columbia University College of Dental Medicine—one of the nation’s top dental schools—and Aetna, Simple Steps to Better Dental Health® is a comprehensive dental information website.
Caring for your infant's mouth
Your baby doesn't have teeth, but you should still clean his or her mouth. It is a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning your baby's gums soon after birth. Although there may be a little fussing at first, your infant will get used to having the mouth cleaned like other parts of the body. Many children grow to enjoy tooth brushing as part of their daily routine.
Between 3 and 9 months, your infant's baby teeth will begin to erupt (emerge into the mouth). The process starts with the lower two front teeth (incisors). Timing varies considerably among children. However, the order is very predictable.
It is completely normal and healthy for your baby or young child to suck on a thumb, finger or pacifier. It's not something you need to be alarmed about or discourage. Sucking is a natural reflex. It's something your baby did in the womb.
New parents often ask, "When should my child first see a dentist?"
The short answer is "First visit by first birthday." That's the view of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Pediatricians agree. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children who are at risk of early childhood cavities visit a pediatric dentist by age 1.
The idea of such early dental visits is still surprising to many new parents. However, national studies have shown that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. More than 1 in 4 children in the United States has had at least one cavity by the age of 4. Many kids get cavities as early as age 2.
The primary teeth
When infants are born, almost all of their primary (baby) teeth already have formed. These teeth are still hidden in the gums. They usually begin to erupt or cut through the gums at about six months of age. Some babies get teeth earlier, and some get them later. That's okay. Your one-year-old may have a different number of teeth than your neighbor's one-year-old.
Early childhood caries
Early childhood caries, or ECC, is a serious form of cavities. It can quickly destroy your child's teeth. In the past, it has been called baby bottle tooth decay, nursing caries or nursing bottle syndrome. ECC often occurs when your baby's teeth are exposed to sugars for long periods throughout the day.
The permanent teeth
Children typically start to lose their baby teeth and replace them with adult teeth when they are six or seven years old. Some children start losing teeth earlier. Others start later. The order that your child's teeth come in is more important than when they start to come in.
Looking for more Information to guide you through your baby's first dental visit to the teenage years?
Dental benefits and Dental insurance plans are offered, underwritten or administered by Aetna Dental Inc., Aetna Dental of California Inc., Aetna Health Inc. and/or Aetna Life Insurance Company, and in Texas by Aetna Dental Inc., and in Arizona by Aetna Health Inc. Dental rider plans are provided or administered by Aetna Health Inc., Aetna Health of California Inc.; Aetna Dental Inc.; and/or Aetna Life Insurance Company; and in Arizona by Aetna Health Inc. and/or Aetna Health Insurance Company; and in Texas by Aetna Health Inc., Aetna Health Insurance Company and/or Aetna Life Insurance Company (Aetna). In Maryland, by Aetna Health Inc., 151 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06156. Each insurer has sole financial responsibility for its own products.
This material is for information only. Dental benefits and dental insurance plans contain exclusions and limitations. Dental information programs provide general dental information and are not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a dentist or other dental care professional. Dental providers are independent contractors and are not agents of Aetna. Provider participation may change without notice. Aetna does not provide care or guarantee access to dental services. For self-funded accounts, benefits coverage is offered by your employer, with administrative services only provided by Aetna Life Insurance Company. Information is believed to be accurate as of the production date; however, it is subject to change. For more information about Aetna plans, refer to www.aetna.com.
Policy forms issued in Oklahoma include: GR-9, GR-9N, GR-23 and/or GR-29/GR-29N.
© 2002-2013 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions. External website links provided on this site are meant for convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement. These external links open in a different window.
The information contained in this online site (the "Service") is presented in summary form only and is intended to provide broad consumer understanding and knowledge of health care topics. The information should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your oral health professional, physician or other health care provider. The Service does not recommend the self-management of health problems. Information obtained by using the Service is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions or their treatments. Should you have any health-care-related questions, please call or see your oral health professional, physician or other health care provider promptly. You should never disregard medical or dental advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
The information is compiled from a variety of sources ("Information Providers"), including but not limited to our academic partner, the Associated Press, the New York Times Syndicate, federal health agencies and other health organizations. Neither Aetna Inc., nor any of its affiliates ("Aetna"), nor any Information Provider shall be responsible for information provided herein under any theory of liability or indemnity. Liability of Aetna or Information Providers, if any, for damages (including, without limitation, liability arising out of contract, negligence, strict liability, tort or patent or copyright infringement) shall not exceed any fees paid by the user for the particular information or service provided. In no event shall Aetna or any Information Provider be liable for any damages other than the amount referred to above, and all other damages, direct or indirect, special, incidental, consequential or punitive, are hereby excluded even if Aetna or the Information Provider has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Neither Aetna nor any Information Provider shall be responsible for any statements or materials posted in chat rooms on the Service under any theory of liability or indemnity.
Information accessed through this Service is provided "AS IS" and without warranty, express or implied. ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR USE OR PURPOSE ARE HEREBY EXCLUDED. Aetna and Information Providers make no warranty as to the reliability, accuracy, timeliness, usefulness or completeness of the information. Aetna and Information Providers cannot and do not warrant against human and machine errors, omissions, delays, interruptions or losses, including loss of data. Aetna and Information Providers cannot and do not guarantee or warrant that files available for downloading from this Service will be free of infection or viruses, worms, Trojan horses or other code that manifests contaminating or destructive properties.