Breastfeeding and Dental Health: The Connection

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
January 24, 2018

Woman laying in bed with her baby

One of the most important decisions that you will make for your newborn is whether or not you will breastfeed. And you might already know about some of the many benefits that your milk could provide to your baby, such as a boost to his or her immune system. But what about your baby’s dental health? And what about your dental health? Is there a connection between oral health and breastfeeding, for both mom and baby?

Breast Milk: More Than Just Nutrition

Have you heard about baby bottle tooth decay? Basically, when a baby is given a bottle filled with milk, formula, or juice before bed, the teeth are exposed to the sugars in those drinks for a long period of time. And that could end up causing your little one’s teeth to decay prematurely. Oh no! Here’s why: when drinking from a bottle, the milk ends up surrounding the teeth, and the bottle might continue leaking milk even after your baby stops sucking on it. On the other hand, your nipple goes further into your baby’s mouth and needs to be sucked on to release the milk. So breastfeeding might help reduce the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.

Research has also suggested that breast milk has protective effects because it contains antibodies that could get in the way of unwanted bacterial growth in your baby’s mouth. Plus, these antibodies might inhibit a bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans, which is associated with tooth decay. Nice!

On top of all of that, babies who are breastfed without using a bottle for the first six months of life tend to be less likely to develop dental alignment problems. More specifically, breastfeeding your child might help to reduce the risk of an overbite, a crossbite, or an open bite. Just remember that using a pacifier or sucking on a thumb may adversely affect your baby’s teeth alignment as well. So if you want to help your child avoid braces in the future, keeping these tips in mind could help ensure a beautiful smile.

What About Cavities?

By now, breastfeeding probably sounds like a great idea, right? But it’s important to note that breastfeeding doesn’t guarantee that your baby won’t develop those dreaded cavities.

According to experts, breastfeeding could actually contribute to cavity formation, simply because your own breast milk also has sugar in it. So even if you do decide to breastfeed your tiny bundle of joy, don’t forget to gently wipe the gums with a moistened gauze pad or washcloth daily, even before those first little chompers erupt. And after the first teeth emerge, you can gently brush them twice daily to help keep them clean.

When Is It Time to Stop Breastfeeding?

Sure, there are a lot of benefits that come with breastfeeding, but could it ever end up being too much of a good thing? According to researchers, yes, it could. Breastfeeding for two years or more might end up increasing your child’s risk of cavities. Whoa!

How could this be? Well, experts think it might have something to do with the fact that children over two years of age tend to ask for breast milk often, and they are typically fed on demand. Plus, these children might even be breastfed at night. When these frequent feedings and nighttime feedings aren’t followed up with proper dental cleaning, it might boost the risk of cavities. For these reasons, some experts recommend that you stop breastfeeding your baby at or before 24 months of age.  

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Your Teeth, Busy Mom!

Even though all of your focus is on your precious baby, try to stay on track when it comes to your own oral health care routine. A lot of moms are, understandably, too tired to brush their teeth twice a day, or they might end up forgetting to floss because they have so many other things on their mind.

Failing to keep up with your brushing and flossing regimen could increase your risk of gum disease and cavities. And this is scary for your baby, too, because you could end up transferring bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth if you do something as simple as share a spoon. So keeping your own mouth clean and healthy is always an important first step.

Keep Baby’s Teeth Beautiful with Help from Your Dentist

In addition to getting your teeth cleaned and having your dentist examine your mouth for the early signs of gum disease and decay, your baby could also start seeing the dentist. With your dentist’s help, you could rest assured that your child’s teeth are erupting perfectly, and you could also gain valuable advice regarding how to care for your baby’s teeth.

So it turns out that breastfeeding your baby could not only help promote healthy growth, but also help promote the development of healthy teeth. Wow, breast milk is even more impressive than we thought!


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