Babies develop teeth while they are still in the womb and their teeth are normally hidden in their gums for the first 2 to 3 months. The primary (milk) teeth of babies start erupting at about 6 months of age. Taking care of your baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth, is essential.

However, on the contrary, many parents think it is not important to take care of their baby’s primary teeth as they will be eventually replaced by the permanent ones. Remember that, bacteria exist in your baby’s mouth as much as they do in yours. The remnants of milk or bottle feed can lead to a buildup of bacteria in your baby’s mouth. This buildup can cause the decaying of your baby's teeth and can impair speech development and also can be a cause of poor nutrition, later in life.   

To prevent teeth damage, it is important to start cleaning your newborn’s mouth and tongue early. There is a lot of confusion amongst parents regarding how to clean the teeth, which brush to use, and which paste to use. Read on to solve all your queries!

How to Clean Your Baby’s Mouth and Tongue: 5 Points to Remember

1. Start cleaning your baby’s mouth even before the teeth have erupted, when the baby is about 3 months old. Do not forget to wash your hands thoroughly before you start cleaning your baby’s teeth.

2. To clean the mouth, use a gauze or a cloth. Wrap the gauze or the cloth around your finger and dip it in warm water. Start by cleaning the baby’s tongue in gentle, circular motions. Next, softly rub your finger over the baby’s gums and on the inside of the cheeks too.  

The massaging action with the gauze helps to soothe irritation on the gums while the teeth are erupting. It will also make your baby accustomed to brushing. You can use the gauze for your baby between 3 to 6 months of age, twice every day. 

3. Use a finger brush when the first set of teeth starts to erupt. A finger brush/toothbrush is finger-shaped and has soft blisters at the top, which are worn on the fingers in order to help the baby brush. Ensure to sterilize (make something free from bacteria or other living microorganisms) your baby’s finger brush after every use. 

You can gradually progress to a baby toothbrush once your baby is over a year old. Baby toothbrushes are generally designed keeping in mind the fragile gums of a baby. These brushes have ultra-soft bristles that feel light and delicate on your baby’s teeth and gums.

Keeping Your Baby’s Toothbrush Clean

  • Rinse the toothbrush with tap water after every use.

  • Store the toothbrush upright in an open container to allow it to air-dry.

  • Replace the toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

4. Lay the baby gently and comfortably in your lap, while cleaning his/her teeth. It is not required to awkwardly hold your baby over the washbasin while brushing, since no spitting is required. Preferably, sit on a sofa or a chair with your baby's head in your lap. In case someone is helping you, place the baby’s head in your lap with his/her feet towards the helper. 

5. Use a non-fluoridated, tiny smear of toothpaste. Initially, no toothpaste is required. Wet the brush with water and you are good to go. However, if you want to use toothpaste, use a non-fluoridated one. 

Non-fluoridated toothpaste does not contain any amounts of fluoride. Fluoride, a mineral naturally found in our teeth and commonly found in soils and rocks, is often added to toothpaste, because of its benefits to the tooth enamel and of the role it plays in preventing cavities. 

Once, the baby learns how to spit (after 2-3 years of age), a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste can be used for brushing. Consult your child’s dentist or your peadiatrician before selecting the brand of your baby’s toothpaste.

Additional Tips

  • It is recommended to brush your baby’s teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

  • Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all the surfaces. Encourage them to spit out the toothpaste once they are about 2 years old.

  • Do not worry if your baby swallows some of the toothpaste. Such small quantities of fluoride will not cause any damage.

To conclude, remember that your baby may initially struggle and may not want his/her teeth to be brushed, but do not give up. Try to distract, be gentle, yet firm. Consult your peadiatrician for more instructions and information.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.