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.
Your infant’s mouth
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.
Your child's first dental visit
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.
Kids’ dental care
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.
Parents’ guide to children’s dental health
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.
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