Should I clean my newborn’s tongue? How do I do It?

Should I Clean My Newborn's Tongue? How Do I Do It?

Most people believe that oral hygiene is usually linked with cleaning teeth. But a good oral cleansing means taking good care of other parts of the mouth too. This includes the tongue and gums.

Oral hygiene is of great importance for babies as the tongue is the main organ for suckling.  Your baby’s tongue should be cleaned on a regular basis to reduce the risk of fungus, bacteria, or other germs.

Newborn babies are also at higher risk of oral thrush because their immune system is not completely developed.

What Is oral thrush?

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungi infection of the genus Candida that develops on the mucous membranes of the mouth. This is more common in people with low immune systems.

Apart from babies, it is also common in adults and usually in people undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

It is mostly harmless and easily treatable. According to National Health Services, around one in every 20 newborn babies is affected by oral thrush, rising to around one in every seven babies in the fourth week of life.
After this, the chances of your baby developing thrush will gradually decrease. This is the same fungus that causes diaper rash. In babies, mothers can pass this candida by taking antibiotics while breastfeeding or having thrush and breastfeeding.

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How to clean a newborn’s tongue?

Cleaning a newborn’s tongue is essential to infant care, particularly for breastfed babies. Sometimes, parents may notice a persistent milk residue, often called “milk mouth” or “stubborn milk tongue,” especially in babies around 6 months of age. This residue can occasionally result in a black tongue appearance. Proper cleaning techniques are crucial to maintaining oral hygiene and preventing thrush issues. Let’s explore how to effectively clean a newborn’s tongue to ensure their oral health and overall well-being.

Sterilized earbud

Before using an earbud to clean your newborn’s tongue, it’s crucial to ensure proper hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly and sterilize the earbuds. Dip the bud in lukewarm drinking water to make it safe for use. Gently roll it on your newborn’s tongue, ensuring not go too deep into the mouth. Also, remember to wipe the upper and lower gums. This method helps remove any residue on the tongue and gums, promoting oral hygiene.

Wipe with cloth/gauze

Start by washing your hands with soap and then sterilizing the gauze, cotton, or washcloth with lukewarm drinking water. Gently place your finger inside the baby’s mouth after encircling it with the cloth.  Wipe the upper and lower gums in circular motions. Doing this when the baby is happy can make the process more comfortable. This gentle wiping helps to remove any milk or formula residue from the tongue and gums, maintaining oral cleanliness.

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Clean with a soft-bristled toothbrush

A soft-bristled toothbrush is gentle on your baby’s delicate teeth and gums. Choose one with a small head for easy handling. Brush your baby’s teeth at night before bedtime using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste once teeth begin to erupt. After brushing, refrain from giving your baby’s mouth a quick rinse to let the fluoride in the toothpaste do its job. This practice helps maintain oral hygiene and prevents tooth decay. Wait to use a toothbrush until your baby is 6-12 months of age.

Use a tongue scraper

A tongue scrapper can be used in a milk-mouth baby. Tongue scraping effectively removes bacteria and food debris from the tongue’s surface, promoting oral hygiene and fresh breath. Gently rub the tongue from back to front using a scraper or a toothbrush with soft bristles. Avoid applying too much pressure to prevent tongue irritation. Rinse your baby’s mouth with water after cleaning. Regular tongue scraping helps keep your baby’s mouth clean and healthy.

Glycerin and toothpaste

Glycerin is safe for babies older than six months and is commonly found in toothpaste. However, toothpaste isn’t necessary for cleaning the mouth of a newborn or young infant under six months old. Introducing toothpaste too early can result in the baby swallowing too much fluoride. Stick to gentle cleaning methods like wiping with a damp cloth or using a soft-bristled toothbrush until your baby is old enough for toothpaste.

When can I start cleaning my newborn tongue?

Although babies’ teeth grow in four to six months, instead of waiting until then, you can start cleaning the tongue of your newborn to prevent germs from developing. It is because, like adults, babies also have bacteria in their mouth but their saliva production is less than adults and thus cannot flush out bacteria as frequently as adults.

How do I clean my 6-month-old’s tongue?

Cleaning your 6-month-old’s tongue is an integral part of oral hygiene. Children at 6 months usually erupt teeth. Cleaning toge along with teeth can be made a habit.  Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Wash Your Hands: Make sure your hands are clean before cleaning your baby’s tongue to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Choose the Right Tool: Select a soft-bristled baby toothbrush designed for infants. Ensure that the toothbrush is clean and hasn’t been used by anyone else.
  • Position Your Baby: Sit your baby comfortably on your lap or lay them on a changing table with their head supported. Make sure your baby is in a calm and relaxed state.
  • Gently Brush: Moisten the toothbrush bristles with clean water. Using gentle motions, brush your baby’s tongue from back to front. Be very soft to avoid causing any discomfort or gagging.
  • Focus on Tongue Surface: Pay special attention to the tongue’s surface, where milk residue or food particles may accumulate. Brushing the tongue helps remove bacteria and prevents bad breath.
  • Rinse and Dry: Rinse the toothbrush well with water after brushing. After that, wipe your baby’s mouth with a fresh rag or tissue to get rid of any extra saliva or water.
  • Be Consistent: Make tongue cleaning a part of your baby’s daily oral hygiene routine. As your baby grows older and gets more teeth, you can introduce a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to the toothbrush.
  • Monitor for Signs of Discomfort: Pay attention to your baby’s reactions while cleaning their tongue. If they seem uncomfortable or start gagging excessively, stop and try again later or consult with your pediatrician.

Remember, cleaning your baby’s tongue is as essential as brushing their teeth. It helps remove bacteria, food debris, and milk residue, promoting good oral health and preventing issues like thrush and bad breath.

Why you should keep your baby’s tongue clean?

Keeping your baby’s tongue clean is essential for several reasons, which are explained as follows: 

Preventing oral thrush: 

Babies frequently get oral thrush, a fungal infection that causes white patches on the tongue and within the mouth. An overabundance of the yeast Candida albicans is the cause of these patches. Keeping your baby’s tongue clean can lower the chance of thrush by removing food particles and milk residue that encourage yeast formation on the tongue.

Maintaining oral hygiene: 

Babies can also develop plaque, black tongue, bacteria, and food debris on their tongues like adults. Regular cleaning helps prevent the accumulation of these substances, reducing the risk of dental issues e.g. tooth decay and gum disease, as they grow older.

Preventing bad breath: 

A dirty tongue can contribute to bad breath in babies. Bacteria and food particles left on the tongue can produce unpleasant odors, affecting your baby’s breath. Cleaning the tongue removes these odor-causing substances, helping to keep your baby’s breath fresh.

Promoting healthy feeding: 

A clean tongue can enhance your baby’s feeding experience. Excess milk residue or debris on the tongue can interfere with the baby’s ability to latch onto the breast or bottle correctly, leading to feeding difficulties or discomfort. By keeping the tongue clean, you can ensure smooth and comfortable feeding sessions for your baby.

Stimulating saliva production: 

Cleaning the tongue with gentle brushing or wiping can stimulate saliva production in babies. Saliva plays a crucial role in oral health by helping to neutralize acids, wash away food particles, and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.

Preventing oral infections: 

Besides thrush, keeping your baby’s tongue clean helps reduce the risk of other oral infections. Bacteria and fungi survive in moist environments, so removing excess moisture and debris from the tongue can help prevent diseases and maintain oral health.

Keeping your baby’s tongue clean is essential to their oral hygiene routine. It helps prevent specific oral issues and improves their overall health and well-being. You can promote a lifetime of good oral health habits by incorporating tongue cleaning into your baby’s daily care routine.

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How often to clean a newborn baby’s tongue?

Cleaning before and after every feed is good but can be difficult for many mothers. Therefore, twice a day is an adequate time to clean the tongue of your newborn. A soft small-sized toothbrush, finger brush, or washcloth can be used to gently scrub the tongue of the newborn baby.

Talk to a doctor! Precautions to be taken

It is very important that you take a few precautions when engaging in this activity and always talk to a doctor before trying anything you read online:

  • If you are using toothpaste, clean a newborn’s tongue properly so as to remove the remains
  • Do not use fluoride toothpaste
  • Try to cradle your baby while doing this
  • Be gentle when cleaning the tongue, and do not go deep

If the white layer persists, this might be a severe oral thrush. If the above method does not help you and you can still see the patches, you need to consult your pediatrician immediately.

Are you curious to know more about your baby’s oral hygiene and how to improve it? Then consult our doctors via our 100% free online doctor chat today. Click below and start chatting with a doctor in just minutes.

FAQs about cleaning newborn baby tongue

What does thrush on baby’s tongue look like?

White milk residue is often mistaken for thrush. However, thrust can be identified as a thick white coating more like cottage cheese, that you cannot wipe easily. It is a fungal infection caused by candidiasis and is accompanied by white spots on the tongue, inside of cheeks, gums, and mouth roof.

Is it normal for a newborn to have a white tongue?

It is important to differentiate between white tongue or discoloration due to milk and white tongue due to thrush. For that, it is recommended to clean the tongue with a washcloth twice a day. However, the white coat due to milk is normal and it vanishes once the baby starts eating solids. But if it is a thick coat that doesn’t wipe off, it might be a yeast infection called thrush.

How can I prevent my baby from getting thrush?

Preventing thrush in babies involves several vital measures. Maintaining cleanliness is crucial; sterilizing and cleaning baby bottles, nipples, and pacifiers minimizes thrush transmission. Breastfeeding mothers should ensure good nipple hygiene and monitor for thrush signs. Limiting sugar intake and adhering to antibiotic prescriptions reduce thrush risk. Supporting a healthy immune system through breastfeeding, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep helps prevent thrush and other infections. These measures promote overall baby health and well-being.

How long does milk residue stay on the baby’s tongue?

Milk residue on your baby’s tongue is normal. Babies can have a milk-coated tongue after feeding. This residue usually clears up within a few minutes to an hour after feeding. However, if the residue persists or if you notice any other symptoms, such as white patches that cannot be wiped away easily, it could be a sign of thrush or another underlying issue. In such cases, consult a doctor immediately. 

Is it normal for my 1-month-old to have a white tongue?

A white tongue in a one-month-old baby can be normal due to milk residue or a harmless condition called milk tongue. However, if the white coating on the tongue persists, spreads, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fussiness, feeding difficulties, or refusal to feed, it could indicate thrush or another underlying issue. In such cases, it’s advisable to consult a doctor for further evaluation and appropriate treatment.

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