If you thought oral hygiene was something you only had to worry about when those first little teeth appear, think again. Starting early (in fact, the earlier, the better) ensures good general health − especially as, with no immune system to speak of, your baby is susceptible to bacteria-causing oral thrush and other infections. The teeth (when they come) and gums may also be affected if you don’t keep things clean in the meantime since pieces of food can accumulate. There’s very little in that tiny mouth to brush, so you’ll have to focus on your baby’s tongue.
Keep your hands clean
There’s no room for a toothbrush in there, so you’ll have to use your hands. By now, you’re used to the hand cleaning that needs to take place pretty much all the time when you have a newborn, and tooth (or rather tongue) brushing is no different.
Although you can buy purpose-made tongue brushes, you can do the job just as well with a piece of gauze. Simply wrap it around your index finger and dip it in warm water, testing first to make sure it’s not hot enough to burn your baby’s mouth.
This is the hard part. After all, babies don’t particularly enjoy being handled – as soon as you’ve tried to dress one in a babygro, you’ll realise that it’s like trying to stuff a dancing octopus inside a sack – and they’re particularly tetchy about having their little mouths opened against their will. Try to find a hold that’s comfortable for you both. Most moms recommend cradling your baby in one arm so you’re free to brush with the other. This gives her a sense of security. Try do something that will elicit a smile so you gain easy access. Otherwise, pull down her lower lip then wipe the lips gently in small circles, moving onto the tongue, the inner cheeks and the roof of the mouth. Be sure to do the entire mouth after every meal. You can also use the time to check for a white coating on the tongue; a sign of oral thrush.
Keep it up
Tongue brushing is an important part of oral hygiene at any age, so remember to include it even after those first chompers have arrived. Use a soft toothbrush to gently sweep the tongue and gums along with the teeth.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.