Your mouth is the window to your body’s health. It is the passageway which regulates what enters your body. It also shows signs of various nutritional deficiencies and general infections.
Infant oral care is very crucial. Your baby’s first teeth start coming in around 6 months of age. But as a parent, you should implement child dental care right from the very beginning.
Oral hygiene is essential, and your baby needs your help to stay healthy.
It is a common notion that maintaining oral hygiene only means brushing the teeth. But our mouth or oral cavity consists of not only the teeth but the gums, tongue, lips and inner cheek.
So, holistic care should be taken to clean the entire mouth to prevent any oral ailments.
Tongue cleaning is a vital part of routine dental hygiene practice. Its importance is even more in babies because their immunity is deficient and the bacteria that accumulates in the tongue may impair the baby’s general health.
A simple procedure like tongue cleaning may become challenging when performing it on babies because they get cranky in the process. So, as a parent, you should know how to implement the right procedure tactfully.
Also, you should take utmost care when inserting anything into your baby’s mouth.
Why should you clean your baby’s tongue?
One of the most important duties of our daily oral hygiene practice involves cleaning of the tongue. But tongue cleaning can become a challenging task in new-born babies as they can become cranky.
Proper cleaning of the tongue helps prevent bad breath, bacterial accumulations, and risk of oral infections and diseases that can affect a child’s gums and baby teeth.
It is exceedingly important to clean your baby’s tongue since their diet mainly comprises of milk. This produces a white coating on the tongue.
But you can quickly get rid of this if you know how to clean your baby’s tongue.
It is essential to focus on the habit of tongue cleaning even after tooth eruption and train your child to make it a part of his oral hygiene.
The immune system of babies is merely developed. They are most commonly susceptible to bacteria that may cause oral thrush. According to reports, approximately 5-7% of infants develop oral thrush. (1)
Oral thrush appears to be a white coating on the tongue which is produced by a fungal infection. Sometimes many parents ignore signs of oral thrush as they get confuse it with milk coating.
Thus, tongue cleaning is the only way to differentiate between milk white coating and oral thrush as milk coating goes away quickly with regular tongue cleaning whereas oral thrush coating won’t.
If you see any sign of oral thrush, then you should immediately visit a pediatric dentist for appropriate treatment.
How to clean your baby’s tongue?
- Before you begin to clean your baby’s tongue, ensure that you have washed your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Prepare warm water in a bowl. Ensure that the water is just lukewarm and not too hot to burn your baby’s mouth.
- Now take a piece of sterilized gauze or washcloth of appropriate size which can be managed by a finger. Moisten it with warm water and wrap it around your finger. Commercially available baby tongue cleaners that are specially designed finger cloth can also be used. They are readily available in most of the drugstores.
- Gently open the baby’s mouth and put your finger inside to clean the tongue.
- Once your finger is inside your baby’s mouth, place your finger on the baby’s tongue and rub or scrape it gently in circular motions.
- After cleaning the tongue, use the finger to massage the inner cheek sides and the gums to complete the procedure.
- Gum cleaners can be used to eliminate the stubborn build-ups which you are unable to clean with your fingers. If the build-ups persist in spite of using the cleaners, then consult the doctor for further advice. It is mandatory to avoid fluoridated items as the baby can ingest the fluoride content.
- You should do tongue cleaning at least once a day.
- Some doctors recommend soft-bristled moistened toothbrushes specially designed for babies for cleaning the tongue.
- You can also use a sterilized ear bud dipped in warm water as an alternative to the gauze/cloth technique. Just roll the earbud on the baby’s tongue to scrape out the coating from the surface. Do not insert the earbud deep into the mouth. You can also use this technique to clean the gums too.
- Another technique is to use glycerine for cleaning your baby’s tongue. A small drop is sufficient to clean the tongue. Do mention the use before you purchase the product from any drugstore. The glycerine which is used here is sweet taste. It will feel warm in your baby’s mouth.
You should avoid the use of foam-producing cleaning agents as they may irritate your baby’s mouth. Also, never use tongue scrapers to clean your child’s tongue as they may damage the tastebuds.
Cleaning and massaging of the gums need to be done before the eruption of teeth in babies. This will also help in teething and maintaining good oral hygiene.
Tips and tricks for efficient tongue-cleaning for your baby
Even though the task seems to be an easy one, most babies tend to cry a lot while performing the procedure. They do not cooperate, thereby making tongue cleaning a tedious task.
- The best method to clean the baby’s mouth is to cradle the child in one arm so that the second hand is free to clean the baby’s mouth. In this way, the child will feel secure and also feel the warmth of the mother, making the procedure
- To achieve your baby’s cooperation, always perform a tongue cleaning procedure when your baby is in a good mood.
- Clean the baby’s tongue immediately after feeding. Usually, the baby is not cranky soon after feeding.
- Always try to get your baby engaged to his favorite activity while cleaning the tongue.
- Make sure the water which is used in the overall process is of the right temperature. It should not be too hot nor too cold for your baby’s mouth. Very high or low temperature may hurt your baby’s tastebuds.
Take home message
Tongue cleaning twice a day accompanied by cleaning and massaging is more beneficial and useful as compared to doing cleaning and massaging alone.
It is never too early to start implementing oral hygiene practices. Tongue cleaning is an integral part of oral hygiene at any age. So, do include it before and after the arrival of the first baby teeth.
You may have to inculcate this habit in your children before they learn to perform it independently.
Every baby is different, and so is yours. Some babies can get irritated during the tongue cleaning procedure and not cooperate at all.
In such a scenario, it is essential to visit your pediatrician to learn a way around. Tongue cleaning will go a long way in marinating healthy mouth.