Many parents believe that oral hygiene only becomes important once your little one gets his/her first tooth. However, it’s important to keep your baby’s mouth clean as bacteria does exist in their mouths too. Unfortunately, they have less saliva than adults, making it hard for their mouths to wash away any milk residue. In this article, we’ll explain how you can maintain your baby’s oral hygiene through different ages.
Oral hygiene for newborns involves cleaning their tongue, gums and the inside of their cheeks. For this, you will need warm water and a clean washcloth or gauze.
First, make sure that your hands are clean. If not, any germs on your fingers will be directly transferred into your newborn’s body. Then lay your baby down across your lap and cradle their head in your hand. Wrap your forefinger with a layer of the cloth and dip it into the warm water. With your baby’s mouth open, you need to rub their tongue with your finger gently. Then use the same cloth-covered finger to wipe the inside of their cheeks. You also need to slowly massage your baby’s gums to maintain good oral hygiene.
Dealing with thrush: The white coating on your baby’s tongue usually is milk, but not always. It could also be thrush. You will know it’s thrush if you can’t get rid of it by simply wiping it away. Your baby may also develop white spots on their tongue, gums and inside of their cheeks. You will need an antifungal medication to get rid of thrush, so visit your baby’s paediatrician for recommendations.
2) Till 6 months
By now, your baby will have his/her first tooth, and maybe some more. You will need to use a soft, child-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Use the toothbrush to scrub your baby’s tongue and gums too. A finger brush can also be used to clean their tongue and gums till they are a little older.
Till they are about 3 years old, use only a small amount of toothpaste – equivalent to the size of a rice grain. After that, you can increase this to a pea-sized amount.
3) After 6 years
Till about 6 years of age, you need to brush their teeth yourself. But it would help if you also started teaching them how to do it themselves. Once they show enough hand co-ordination, you’ll know they’re ready. You can do this by showing them how you brush your teeth or explaining each action as you brush their teeth and tongue.
Other things to keep in mind:
- You can keep your baby entertained while cleaning their tongue so that they are engaged.
- If your baby becomes irritable while you clean their tongue, wait until they are in a good mood.
- Your baby’s first visit to the dentist will need to happen when they get their first tooth (usually between 3 and 9 months).
- If you have concerns about nursing or bottle-feeding your baby beyond a certain age, consult your child’s dentist.
Remember that good oral hygiene starts at a very young age. Cleaning their teeth and gums contributes to their overall oral health, and helps maintain good habits even as they grow older.