When I first starting breastfeeding I noticed there were some people claiming that breastfeeding could be bad for baby’s teeth and cause caries. I carried out some research on breastfeeding and its effect on a baby’s teeth.
So, is breastfeeding bad for babies teeth? Recent studies have shown that breastfeeding has no negative effects on babies teeth. Evidence shows that breastfeeding babies are less likely to suffer from tooth decay. When breastfeeding, your baby brings the nipple towards the back of the mouth where milk bis instantly swallowed. An artificial nipple is shaped differently, and milk also flows faster from the bottle. This results in milk pooling around the teeth with a higher likelihood of causing caries.
So does this mean we don’t have to worry about our baby’s teeth if we are breastfeeding.? Not at all!. Dental and mouth hygiene is just as important in breastfed babies as in those to take formula. Firstly I will take a look as to why breastfeeding is less likely to cause decay. I will then mention the factors that can cause caries even when you are breastfeeding. Tips on how to keep your child’s teeth free from caries will also be included.
Reasons Why Breastfed Babies Get Less Tooth Decay
A systematic review was carried out on whether breastfed, or formula fed babies were more likely to suffer from dental decay. It concluded that current scientific evidence suggests that breastfeeding has a greater protective effect against dental caries than bottle feeding. From what we can see there are a few reasons why breastfed babies get less dental caries.
Milk does not pool around the teeth when nursing
The biomechanism of feeding is different for a breastfeeding baby. When your baby feeds the nipple is brought to the back of the mouth where they will have immediately swallowed. Milk has made no actual contact with teeth so, therefore, will have little chance of causing decay. When a bottle feeding baby is taking in milk, the artificial nipple flows at a faster rate and is placed more directly in the mouth when feeding. These factors mean that milk is more likely to stay in the mouth and pool around the baby’s teeth. Tooth dec more likely to occur in this situation.
Breast Milk’s unique properties
Breast milk contains a range of antibodies and protein that help protect against tooth decay. An article from La Leche league states that several components of human milk inhibit bacteria which cause cavities. These include the antibodies IgA and IgG which retard streptococcal growth. Lactoferrin acts by killing the bacteria Streptococcus mutans which is a significant component in tooth decay. The PH levels are also elevated which creates an ideal environment in the mouth to prevent decay.
Human milk actively deposits calcium
Calcium along with phosphorous are more easily absorbed with increased bioavailability from breast milk. If you are breastfeeding your baby on demand, be assured that your baby is receiving the required calcium levels for their age.
Dispelling The Myth That Breastfeeding Causes Tooth Decay
It has been a common thought for some time even amongst health care professionals that breastfeeding is a direct cause of tooth decay. Advise has been given for some moms to discontinue breastfeeding at night or even altogether. So is there any evidence to back this up.? More recent studies have been unable to find a link between the development of dental caries and breastfeeding. This study by Lida, Auinger et al. concluded that neither breastfeeding nor its duration are independent risk factors for early childhood caries, severe early childhood caries, or decayed and filled surfaces on primary teeth.
Moms should continue to breastfeed their babies in the knowledge that their milk will not cause tooth decay. However, some factors do contribute towards cavity formation. Here is a guide below to help prevent tooth decay in your breastfed baby.
What Could Cause Dental Decay in Breastfed Babies?
We know that even breastfed are not immune to getting dental caries even at a young age. Below is a list of some of the factors that can contribute to dental decay.
Once solids have commenced this bacteria mixes with the sugars in food to produce an acid that can cause tooth decay. This bacteria is usually passed to babies from their caregiver unintentionally through their saliva. Sharing items such as spoons, giving kisses or helping your baby chew food can easily pass on this bacteria. To reduce the chance of your baby acquiring this bacteria try to avoid situations where your saliva could enter your baby’s mouth.
Once your baby commences on solids sugars from foods can contribute to tooth decay if proper dental hygiene is not carried out. Try to limit the amount of time your baby’s teeth is directly in contact with sugary and sweetened foods.
Introducing other fluids
High acidic drinks such as fruit juices can cause enamel to erode and weaken the teeth. Try to dilute juices with water and take them along with meals to reduce these negative effects.
Lack of saliva flow
The constant stream of saliva in the mouth helps neutralize any harmful substances that can cause decay. Children who breathe through their mouth can have a dry mouth in the morning when they wake. Ensure to keep your child’s airways clear to help them continue breathing through their nose.
How to Prevent Dental Decay
Regular brushing as soon as teeth appear
As well as preventing tooth decay starting regular brushing early will set up a routine for your child that will make it easier in the years ahead. A small soft toothbrush and water is the ideal way to start when a tooth appears. For children under 3, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends just a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.
No carbohydrates after brushing teeth
When you have helped brush your child’s teeth at night, try to avoid any carbohydrate-rich foods. These are more likely to cause tooth decay.
Your baby’s diet plays a vital role in preventing tooth decay. Only give your baby cooled boiled water as an alternative drink if they are under one year old. For over one’s limit the number of fruit juices as these are acidic which can erode enamel. Try to avoid soda pop. Processed foods that contain high amounts of sugar should be kept to a minimum. Encourage your child to eat foods that contain higher levels of calcium such as yogurts and cheese.
Regular trips to the dentist
Dental check-ups can help prevent or identify any dental problems that may have appeared. Try to book your baby in to see their dentist by their first birthday.
So What About The Other Studies That Claim Breastfeeding Causes Dental Decay?
There have been a few research studies carried out recently claiming that breastfeeding gives children a higher risk of getting caries particularly after the age of 18 months to 2 years.
A Japanese study by Kato, Yorifugi et al. (2015) states that infants that had been exclusively and partially breastfed for 6 or 7 months were at an elevated risk of caries at 30 months compared to formula-fed babies. It should be noted, however, that the author’s do acknowledge that further studies with more extensive methods of assessment of breastfeeding may be necessary to determine the cariogenic nature of breastfeeding. Factors such as whether the mother had exclusively or partially breastfed her baby was not identified. It also did not take into account how often the babies parents followed advise given as on how to care for their baby’s teeth.
Another study by Chaffee, Felines et al. (2014) found breastfeeding for 24 months or longer increase the prevalence of severe early childhood caries in low-income families in Porto Alegre, Brazil. However, these results don’t claim that prolonged breastfeeding is the cause of tooth decay. They suggest that breast milk along with excess refined sugar may be contributing towards tooth decay in these children.
This research doesn’t give a definite answer that breastfeeding is directly the cause of caries. There are many other variables involved which contribute to tooth decay. Even after reading this research, moms shouldn’t feel deterred. There is no reason why you ca n’t breastfeed your child to whatever age suits you and your child. Regular brushing and avoidance of sugary and acidic foods are the keys to preventing tooth decay.
Do breastfeeding babies get their teeth later?
No. Breastfeeding babies get their teeth at the same time as a formula fed baby. The first tooth usually appears by the time they have reached 6 or 7 months old. They usually get their full set of 20 baby teeth at around two to two and a half years old. These will be replaced by 32 permanent teeth when your child is six years or older.
How are cavities treated in babies?
Depending on the severity of the cavity your baby’s tooth will either be filled with a filling consisting of metal or white composite or a crown put in place as with adult teeth. In some situations, extraction may be required such as advanced decay where it is causing pain to your child. A child’s baby teeth are necessary to keep intact as they maintain the right amount of space to guide the permanent teeth when they are ready to come through.
Are pacifiers bad for toddler’s teeth?
Pacifiers do not benefit toddlers teeth. They can be useful to help your baby get off to sleep at night. However, prolonged use can increase the risk of them having dental malocclusion and otitis media. Using a pacifier could also potentially shorten the duration of breastfeeding. If they use a pacifier for long periods during the day, this could affect their speech development. Constant use can alter the shape of their mouth and prevent your child from practicing speech sounds.