Breastfeeding and oral health

Updated: Sep 27

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding. While cultural differences and personal preferences dictate a large portion of this practice, I’ve summarized some key findings to help you make the right decision for you and your child.


Caries

Research indicates that breastfeeding does not cause dental decay, but there are some expectations to the rule.


A research paper found 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 occur for at least the first 5 months of a child's life. Also, eaving milk in the child’s mouth can lead to decay, so be sure to wipe the gums and brush the teeth after breastfeeding.


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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, bacteria can eat it and create an acidic by-product. An acidic oral environment causes mineral loss from the tooth. 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, use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Do not let a child swallow toothpaste and ensure water fluoridation levels are no higher than 0.7mg/L.


Malocclusion

Research shows that breastfeeding reduces the chances of a bad jaw position. There are less chances of acquiring a posterior cross bite and class 2 malocclusion (also known as a deep bite).


Basically, less chances of complex braces treatment.


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 the risk of developing crooked teeth.

Did you know?

A class 2 malocclusion impacts 15-20% of the US population?

Overall, it looks like breastfeeding helps the jaw grow into the right position.


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.


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Leave your thoughts, comments and questions below.

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5505989/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26140303/

  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002817717304592

  4. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/06/28/peds.2016-2943?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26077480/

  6. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/faq/index.htm

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