How to Clean Your Baby's Tongue

From the moment your child is born, they'll need your care to stay healthy. We'll tell you how and why to clean your baby's tongue.
How to Clean Your Baby's Tongue

Last update: 08 November, 2022

Do you know how to clean your baby’s tongue? It’s true that most newborns don’t have teeth, but this doesn’t mean that you have to wait to take care of their mouths. Cleaning your baby’s tongue is one of the first actions that mark the beginning of oral hygiene habits.

Protecting children’s oral health from an early age is the responsibility of adults. This not only favors the correct development of the oral structures and their functions but will also prevent many problems in the future.

No special equipment or a lot of skill is needed; just a little patience and a desire to take care of your child’s health. Keep reading and find out how to clean your baby’s tongue.

Why is cleaning your baby’s tongue important?

Cleaning your baby’s tongue and gums when they don’t yet have teeth or aren’t eating solid food yet may seem unnecessary. But the truth is that this practice allows you to remove the residue that accumulates and helps to install the habit of having a clean mouth.

When oral hygiene is performed from an early age, the child gets used to the sensation of a clean oral cavity. And in addition, they incorporate the presence of dental care items as a regular occurrence. This avoids future rejection of external objects, such as toothbrushes.

There are still no conclusive studies on the effects of oral hygiene on the oral microbiota of toothless infants. In any case, repeated breastfeeding and the lower salivary production typical of this age favor the deposition of certain residues on the tongue.

It’s common to observe that a baby’s tongue has a whitish color. This is due to the fact that milk residues are left on the buccal surfaces and there’s not as much saliva available to clean them. Removing these deposits on a regular basis will prevent them from building up. This will limit the chances of harmful bacteria growing in the mouth.

It’s important not to confuse a baby’s white tongue with another condition called thrush. This infection is caused by the fungus Candida albicans and manifests with a whitish coating on the oral mucous membranes that doesn’t disappear when rubbed. Unlike milk residue, it requires medical treatment with special drugs.

A mother cleaning her baby girl's tongue.
The hygiene of your baby’s mouth should begin long before the appearance of their first tooth. With a wet gauze, you can remove the remains of milk left on the tongue and cheeks.

How to do it correctly?

Cleaning a baby’s tongue and gums is a fairly simple procedure, which doesn’t require complicated products. Just warm water and a clean gauze, cloth, or towel.

The first thing to do is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Then, place the baby on your lap and hold their head with one hand. With the other hand, wrap the index finger with the clean gauze or towel and moisten it in warm water.

Gently open the baby’s mouth to rub and clean the tongue with the cloth. You should make circular movements that sweep the tongue surface. In addition, you should also clean the edges of the gums, making small massages, and the inside of the cheeks.

If after cleaning the baby’s mouth, the tongue persists with a whitish color, consult your pediatrician to rule out a mycosis or any other problem.

It’s a good idea to clean your baby’s tongue once or twice a day after feeding. Ideally, find a time at night, before bedtime, or incorporate oral hygiene into the bathing routine. This way, the child will associate this practice as part of their body care.

Try to make cleaning the mouth a moment of calm, play, and well-being for the child. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient and respect the child’s time. This way, dental hygiene isn’t perceived as a traumatic or stressful experience. On the contrary, the idea is for it to become a time of enjoyment, both for the baby and for the parent who performs it.

Other products to clean the baby’s tongue

To clean your baby’s tongue, gums, and cheeks, you can also use a silicone fingertip, an accessory with soft bristles made of this material that’s placed on the finger. It can make it easier to massage the surfaces of the mouth and remove debris.

Finally, remember that before the eruption of teeth, there’s no need to use toothpaste, glycerin, or any other product to clean the baby’s tongue.

How to clean baby’s tongue after tooth eruption

Between 6 and 8 months of age, the first teeth usually appear in the baby’s mouth, and when this happens, oral hygiene routine should be modified.

When the first milk tooth comes out, it’s time to use a toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s recommended to choose an instrument with soft bristles and a children’s toothpaste containing fluoride. Keep in mind that you should only place a pinch of the product, the size of a grain of rice.

Adults are responsible for sanitizing the baby’s mouth and should brush all the sides of all the teeth present. The tongue and gums should also be gently rubbed with the toothbrush. When there are still few teeth, you can combine the use of the brush and the gauze. The first one is for the teeth, and the cloth or gauze is reserved for cleaning the tongue, cheeks, and gums.

The teeth and tongue should be brushed at least twice a day, especially before putting the child to bed. This routine should be maintained throughout childhood.

As children get older, the amount of toothpaste should be increased and flossing should be incorporated. The cleaning technique should be taught and children should be encouraged to spit when finished.

Adults should keep cleaning until the child acquires the ability to do it correctly on their own. This happens around 6 to 8 years of age. However, children can practice brushing their teeth and tongue to be part of taking care of their mouth. And parents can complete the task.

A mother brushing her baby girl's teeth.
Dental hygiene should be a time of joy for your little ones. Games, songs, and the example of parents are good strategies for children to incorporate this important habit.

Visit a pediatric dentist to take care of your baby’s mouth

Now you know how to clean the tongue and then, your baby’s teeth. With a proper oral hygiene routine, you’ll help maintain the health of their little mouth and avoid diseases such as cavities.

But that’s not all. You should also take your little one to the pediatric dentist before the first birthday and continue with regular check-ups every 6 months.

This professional will evaluate the growth of the jaws, the eruption of the teeth, and the state of the whole mouth. And if there’s any problem, they’ll look for a solution in time.

In addition, they’ll answer all the doubts that arise. And they’ll give you the advice you need to keep your little one’s mouth healthy. With their help and your perseverance, you’ll be able to take care of your little baby’s smile.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.