How to clean baby tongue after feeding

How to Clean Your Newborn's Tongue to Fight Off Gum Disease

  • To clean your newborn's tongue, you should first wash your hands and then take a small piece of moist cloth or gauze around your finger and use it to gently rub the surface of the tongue in circular motions.
  • A newborn's gums and tongue should be cleaned after every feeding.
  • If the white buildup in their mouths will not come off with cleaning, consult a doctor to check for a condition called thrush.
  • This article was reviewed by Sara Siddiqui, MD, who is a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Your baby may not be born with any teeth, but their mouths still need a good cleaning on a regular basis. Here's what you need to know about cleaning your newborn's tongue.

Why your baby has a white tongue

In the days and weeks after your baby is born, you may notice that your baby's tongue looks white after feeding.

A common cause of white residue is a buildup of milk. Infants don't have as much saliva as older children and adults so there is less liquid in their mouths to wash away milk from the tongue.

"If a newborn's tongue is not cleaned, microorganisms begin to colonize within its grooves," says Preetika Chandna, a pediatric dentist and researcher who studies infant oral health. Cleaning away excess milk or food particles can help prevent a build-up of bacteria that could potentially cause gum disease.

However, don't mistake your baby's white tongue for another condition called thrush. Some newborns may pick up Candida, the same fungus found in a yeast infection, during the process of birth. This shows up in the mouth as white patches on the lips, tongue, or inner cheeks called thrush. If your baby has thrush, they will need to be treated by a doctor.  

How to clean your baby's tongue

To clean your baby's tongue, there are more than a few important steps:

  1. Wash your hands to make sure they are clean.
  2. Take a small piece of cloth or gauze and wrap it around your finger.
  3. Moisten the cloth with warm water.
  4. Hold the baby in one arm and use the other hand to softly open the baby's mouth.
  5. Place your finger on the baby's tongue and gently rub the surface of the tongue in a circular shape.
  6. After the tongue is clean, rub the gums and insides of the baby's cheeks.
  7. If the buildup will not come off with cleaning, consult a doctor to check for thrush.

"A newborn's gums and tongue should be cleaned after every feed," says Chandna, adding that you can also use soft silicone "finger brushes" designed to be worn on your finger after the baby is at least eight weeks old.

Introducing a toothbrush and toothpaste

You can either continue using a finger brush or introduce a toothbrush once your baby's first tooth comes in, at around six months of age. It's best to start with a child-sized brush with soft bristles. At this stage, you should not use toothpaste — just add water to the brush.

You can start to use toothpaste once your child is two years old. Start them off with a tiny smear of fluoride-free toothpaste on the toothbrush. You can increase it to a pea-sized amount by the time they turn three. 

You should use fluoride-free toothpaste until your child learns to spit out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it. Because swallowing too much fluoride can upset children's stomachs and cause damage to teeth. Pediatricians generally recommend using fluoride-free toothpaste until age three. 

You can start teaching a child to brush their own teeth as soon as they develop enough hand coordination to hold a toothbrush steady. By age six or seven, kids should be able to brush their teeth without any supervision. However, "children experiencing developmental delays may require assistance while tooth brushing at all ages," Chandna says.

Pediatricians recommend a pediatric dental visit starting at 12 months.

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Madeline Kennedy

Madeline Kennedy is a health writer for Insider covering a wide range of topics including reproductive and sexual health, mental health, nutrition, and infectious disease. Before joining Insider, Madeline worked as a health news writer for Reuters, and a domestic violence therapist. She has a master's degree in social work from UPenn and is interested in the intersection of health and social justice.

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How to Clean a Baby Tongue at Every Stage, Newborn to Toddler

If your baby isn’t eating solid foods or doesn’t have teeth yet, cleaning their tongue might seem unnecessary. But oral hygiene isn’t only for older kids and adults — babies need their mouths clean, too, and the earlier you start, the better.

Here’s what you need to know about oral care for newborns through toddlers, as well as tips on how to teach older kids to clean their own mouth.

Bacteria exist in a baby’s mouth the same way they exist in your mouth.

But babies have less saliva than you, which makes it harder for their little mouths to wash away milk residue. This can also build up on their tongue, causing a white coating. Cleaning their tongue loosens and removes the residue.

Using a damp cloth to clean your baby’s tongue also introduces them to oral cleaning early, so it’s not a huge shock when you clean their mouth with a toothbrush later on.

Cleaning a baby’s tongue and gums is a relatively simple process, and you don’t need a lot of supplies. The only things you’ll need are warm water and a washcloth or a piece of gauze.

First, thoroughly wash your own hands with soap and water. Then, to begin cleaning, lay your baby across your lap with their head cradled in your hand. Then:

  • Dip a gauze- or cloth-covered finger into the warm water.
  • Gently open your baby’s mouth, and then lightly rub their tongue in a circular motion using the cloth or gauze.
  • Softly rub your finger over your baby’s gums and on the inside of their cheeks, too.

You can also use a soft finger brush designed to gently massage and scrub away milk residue from your baby’s tongue and gums. Ideally, you should brush your baby’s tongue at least twice a day.

Glycerin and toothpaste

Glycerin is a colorless, sweet-tasting liquid that gives toothpaste its creamy texture. It’s also found in some skin and hair care products.

Glycerin is nontoxic and considered safe once you start your baby with a small amount toothpaste at around 6 months.

But neither toothpaste nor the glycerin in it are needed for cleaning the mouth of a newborn or young infant less than 6 months old. (Although the glycerin isn’t likely to be a problem, using toothpaste with such a little one can result in baby swallowing too much fluoride.)

It’s important to note that a white coating on your baby’s tongue isn’t always due to milk. Sometimes, it’s caused by a condition called thrush.

Milk residue and thrush look similar. The difference is that you can wipe away milk residue. You can’t wipe away thrush.

Oral thrush is a fungal infection that develops in the mouth. It’s caused by oral candidiasis and leaves white spots on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, and on the roof of the mouth.

Thrush requires treatment with an antifungal medication to stop the spread of the infection. So if that white coating doesn’t wipe away, contact your baby’s pediatrician.

Once your baby is at least 6 months old and has their first tooth, you can use a soft, kid-friendly toothbrush, along with toothpaste. Use this to clean any teeth that have come in.

You can also use the toothbrush to gently scrub your baby’s tongue and gums, or continue to use a finger brush, gauze, or washcloth until they’re a little older.

When giving toothpaste to a baby that’s at least 6 months old, you only need a small amount — about the amount of a rice grain. (And just assume they’re going to swallow it.) Once your child is at least 3 years old, you can increase the amount to pea-size.

Most toddlers can’t clean their own teeth, so you might have to supervise them until they’re between the ages of 6 and 9. But if they have enough hand coordination, you can start teaching them how to correctly brush their own teeth and tongue.

  1. To start, squeeze a little toothpaste on a wet toothbrush.
  2. Demonstrate by first brushing your own teeth (with your own toothbrush).
  3. Next, brush your child’s teeth with their toothbrush. As you brush, explain your actions. Highlight how you’re brushing the front and the back of their teeth.
  4. Let your kid give it a try and allow them to brush as you guide their hand. Once your child gets the hang of it, you can supervise as they brush their own teeth.

You should also show children how to gently clean their tongue using the toothbrush. Also, remind children not to swallow the toothpaste. Teach them to spit out any excess after brushing.

Along with brushing and tongue cleaning, regular checkups with a pediatric dentist are also important for babies and toddlers.

As a general rule of thumb, schedule your child’s first dental visit within 6 months of getting their first tooth, or by 1 year old, whichever comes first. The dentist will check the overall health of their teeth, jaw, and gums. They’ll also check for oral motor developmental problems and tooth decay.

Good oral hygiene starts at an early age. Although your child won’t remember having their tongue and gums cleaned as a newborn, this routine contributes to their overall oral health, and helps them maintain good habits as they become older.

Available methods and prevention of treatment of white plaque on the tongue in infants in an article on the website

08.02.2021, 17:29

Modified: 10/14/2022, 17:40

Pandalad always tries to be helpful to moms, dads and grandmas. Today we will discuss the topic of white plaque in the tongue of infants. We will find out the causes of the “white milk path”, consider the methods and prevention of treatment for this disease, and also find out the opinion of an experienced and popular pediatric pediatrician - Evgeny Komarovsky.

White coating on the child's tongue

The first year for new parents is not easy, because they have to learn a lot. First of all, it is important to monitor the well-being of the baby, so that if necessary, notice ailments in time and take the necessary measures. One of the common problems is white coating on the tongue of a newborn baby . The reasons for its appearance can be very different. In most cases, plaque consists of normal food leftovers from breastfeeding or formula feeding. But also a white tongue in a newborn can be a manifestation of:

  • thrush
  • viral stomatitis
  • and other diseases

The most common cause of a white tongue in a baby is quite harmless - plaque can appear after breastfeeding or formula. But also a white tongue can be associated with diseases such as thrush or viral stomatitis, which require medical intervention.

Many parents are wondering how to determine when to see a doctor and when there is no reason to worry?


Soak a cotton swab in water and gently slide it over your tongue. The usual plaque is easily removed, and in case of illness, it will remain on the tongue due to the thick curd consistency. In the second case, redness may also appear under the plaque.

There are other signs that indicate the disease:

  • If the plaque is only on the tongue, then most likely it is a common trace after feeding.
  • But if the inside of the cheeks, palate and gums are covered with white spots, then most likely it is thrush . Also, when sick, the baby may lose his appetite and act up.

The causes of thrush and stomatitis are associated with the ingress of bacteria into the baby's mouth.

Dr. Komarovsky's advice about white coating on the tongue in babies

According to Dr. Komarovsky, thrush can indeed appear in children. Fungal plaque occurs not only on the tongue, but, as a rule, on the mucous membranes (on the inner surface of the cheeks and tongue). The white track on the tongue is the so-called milk plaque. This phenomenon occurs because the child's mouth dries up.

Milky plaque and thrush occur for the same reasons, because thick saliva dries up in the mouth. It is believed that if the mouth does not dry out, then the entire plaque will disappear without any intervention.

The doctor does not recommend wiping the mouth because it injures the mucosa. Evgeny Komarovsky notes that this method is not effective and even harmful. Parents need to create conditions under which the child will not dry out in the mouth.

Ukrainian pediatrician identifies several main reasons for drying out:

  • occasional festivities
  • dry and warm air
  • continuous screams
  • obstructed nasal breathing

The reason for the occurrence of thrush in young children is enough. The doctor notes that you need to fuss when the spots appeared not only on the tongue, but also on the cheeks. For children who are breastfed or artificially fed, a white coating on the tongue is the norm.

The most effective way to treat and prevent thrush is to restore the bactericidal properties of saliva. To do this, parents need:

  • walk a lot
  • humidify/ventilate the room
  • After drinking milk, give a couple of sips of water so that there are no milk residues in the mouth. If the child is in comfortable conditions, if he does not have pathological fluid losses, then the child does not need to be supplemented. If the room is hot and the child's mouth dries up, while the baby experiences discomfort, then he needs additional liquid (plain water).
Stories from mothers who had white coating on the tongue of their children

Tatiana, 29 years old

According to Tatiana, she first encountered white coating on the tongue when she gave birth to her third child. The two older children did not have any white lines in the oral cavity, but the youngest son had a plaque in the first month of birth. The woman did not understand why the child had a white coating on the tongue. The kid was moody, restless and cried a lot. Tatyana went to the pediatrician and the doctor prescribed a treatment method, after which Tatyana and her family forgot about the thrush.

Bibigul, 30 years old

Bibigul, when she became a mother for the first time, did not know that white coating on the tongue of babies is a fairly common case. The woman and her husband lived in another city away from their relatives, so there was no one to turn to for advice. The first three months after the birth, Bibigul's daughter had no signs of thrush, and after that the baby began to eat poorly and did not breastfeed. The woman made an appointment with the pediatrician, where they found thrush.

How to remove white plaque on the tongue of an infant?

As we have already said, white deposits do not need to be purposefully removed. If parents want to make sure what kind of plaque it is, then you can gently swipe along the white path with a moistened cotton swab. If the plaque is easily removed, and there is no redness under it, then this indicates dried milk. Otherwise, we can talk about the disease that has arisen.

Once again, we emphasize that plaque formed by dried breast milk or formula is the norm. It will be helpful if you give your baby a sip of water after feeding - this way you will clear the mouth of milk residues and reduce the risk of bacteria breeding.

Treatment and prevention of white plaque on the tongue of a child

To prevent such diseases, sterility must be carefully monitored:

  • children's toys
  • nipple
  • all tableware

When breastfeeding, it is important to take care of breast hygiene.

If you suspect that the plaque is related to the disease in the baby, then it is necessary to consult a doctor to treat the white coating on the child's tongue. The specialist will be able to determine the main cause of plaque and recommend safe treatment.


Do not self-medicate. Medications should be prescribed by a doctor after examining the child.

See also: The season of exacerbation, we treat children's colds correctly

Photo: unsplash . com and open sources

Why and how to clean the tongue from plaque

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  • How and why to clean the tongue?

Almost everyone has noticed a coating on their tongue, which is formed by bacteria, sitting comfortably on the taste buds of the tongue. The tongue becomes a "peddler" of pathogenic microflora that gets on the teeth and provokes caries, or it can end up on the throat, which will lead to tonsillitis (tonsillitis), or find shelter in the stomach. In addition, a tongue with a bacterial coating is often the cause of bad breath. To avoid all this, it is enough to pay attention to your tongue every day after brushing your teeth.

By the way, if you have a cold, clean your tongue more often and you will recover faster.

How to clean the tongue?

First you need to decide on the tool. Suitable toothbrushes, which have a special rough surface on the back. You can also purchase a special plastic tongue scraper.

After regular brushing and flossing, start cleaning your tongue. From the root of the tongue to its tip, sweep with the back of the brush. If you use a tongue scraper, you should first clean your tongue with the soft side and then with the hard side. Rinse your mouth and the cleaning is over.

Small children can also have their tongue cleaned if they notice plaque or bad breath from a child's mouth after regular brushing. For newborns, the tongue is cleaned with a piece of gauze dipped in warm and fresh boiled water, or with a silicone fingertip for teeth. Older children can also brush their tongue with the back of a specially coated brush. But the scraper is recommended for use in children only from 8 years old.

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Too frequent plaque on the tongue in an adult or child indicates either insufficient oral hygiene or the presence of diseases, both in the mouth and throat, and in digestion.

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