Updated: Sep 27, 2020
The importance of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized. While cultural differences and personal preferences dictate a large portion of this practice, I’ve summarized some key findings in order to help you make the right decision for you and your child.
Research has largely indicated that breastfeeding does not cause dental decay. There are some other factors to consider. Research has shown that children that breast feed for over 2 years are at increased risk of developing dental decay; however, another paper indicated that breast-feeding after six months can reduce the risk of early childhood caries. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast feeding should be done exclusively for the first 5 months.
Leaving milk in the child’s mouth can lead to decay, so be sure to wipe the gums and brush the teeth after breastfeeding. A multitude of factors need to be considered when interpreting research conclusions. Socioeconomic status, cultural differences, and genetic tooth anomalies all impact caries rates. In general, frequent snacking is associated with increased risk and development of dental decay of both children and adults.
Breast milk contains sugar. If something contains sugar, it contains a substance that bacteria can utilize to create an acidic oral environment. The acidity leashes minerals out of the tooth - it is really that simple and applies to people of all ages. Taking the data and recommendations into consideration, the general advice would be to breast feed during the first 6 months and continue to clean the gums. As new foods are integrated into the diet, be extra conscientious of oral hygiene. Once the teeth erupt, ensure that appropriate fluoridated toothpaste is utilized. Do not let a child swallow toothpaste and ensure water fluoridation levels are no higher than 0.7mg/L.
Research has indicated that breastfeeding can during the chances of acquiring a posterior cross bite and class 2 malocclusion (deep bite). The data is mixed on the results for developing an open bite: the results are either inconclusive or indicate that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing an open bite.
Another study found that breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months reduced risk of developing crooked teeth.
Did you know?
A class 2 malocclusion impacts 15-20% of the US population?
Overall, breastfeeding is good for helping a baby develop a sound jaw relationship.
Other Health Benefits
Breastfeeding is essential for growth and development and reduced the risk of developing infectious diseases and ear infections. It helps with weight loss in the mother and reduces risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.