Adult humans have to brush their teeth, floss, and brush their tongues twice a day, at least. So when did we start doing this? Here is what the professionals say about oral care for newborns...
In order to address the bacteria that forms from the foods we eat and beverages we drink, we have to have oral hygiene. Babies have less saliva than adults do, so they have to find a way to wash out the milk residue. Since most babies breast feed or drink formula for the first several months of their lives at minimum, it is said that you can start right away. Dentists and pediatricians agree that introducing oral care early will help develop routines that will feel more natural as they get older. The earlier we start good habits, the better. It is suggested to start actually brushing a baby's teeth and tongue after 6 months of age, since that is when the teeth start coming in. If using a toothbrush and toothpaste, assume the baby will swallow the toothpaste. As it is not suggested to introduce toothpaste any earlier than 6 months, here are safe toothpastes on the market made specifically for babies. There are also soft finger brushes designed for tongue and gum care.
Remember to always wash your hands before helping the baby with oral care. You can hold the baby in your arms or lay them across your lap with their head cradled in your arms. To clean a newborn baby's gums and tongue, use warm water and a wash cloth, finger brush, or a piece of gauze. Gently open their mouths and lightly rub the finger over the gums and inside the cheeks. Rub their tongue in circular motions.
Parents will need to assist their young children for the first years of their lives. Once a child reaches the ages of 6 to 9 years old, they will have enough coordination to learn how to brush their own teeth and tongue. The first dental visit usually occurs within 6 months of the baby's first tooth coming in.
Some babies experience thrush, which is a white coating on the tongue that is not caused by the milk they are drinking. The difference between thrush and milk on the tongue is that thrush cannot be wiped off. Oral thrush is caused by a fungal infection from candida, and it can leave white spots on the inner cheeks, tongue, roof of the mouth, and gums. The most common cause of thrush in babies is prolonged sucking. Some babies are not able to fight it off because their immune system was not fully formed. It is vital that all feeding equipment is sterilized, toys are sterilized, diapers are cleaned regularly, and that mother's nipples are free from yeast infections. Anti-fungals like Black Cumin, Tea Tree, or Black Spruce can be used to get rid of thrush if it manifests.
Just like bathing and changing our clothes regularly, we have to remember the importance of oral hygiene. With our loving support, even infants can participate. Remember to be gentle, patient, and make each experience as positive as possible. The imprints we leave around this subject will stay with this human for the rest of their lives. Within the seed is the fruit, and this is an opportunity to make oral hygiene a fun and positive experience.