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How Breastfeeding Affects Your Child’s Oral Health

CHOOSING TO BREASTFEED a child is a personal and special decision for a mother. Not only does nursing provide a valuable bonding experience for mother and baby, it also has many health benefits, such as decreasing the child’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and lowering the chances of mom developing breast and ovarian cancer. This is a personal choice and is beyond my scope as a dentist to tell a mother what is best for her child. But what effect can breastfeeding have on a baby’s oral health and development?

Breastfeeding Aids in Bite Alignment

You may not have known that the sucking mechanisms are different for bottle-fed and breastfed babies. Breastfeeding stimulates muscle tone in the jaw because it requires the use of the jaw muscles more so than bottle-feeding. A study published in “Pediatrics” also showed that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months were 72 percent less likely to have crooked teeth.

With that being said, it is important to remember that every child is different. Breastfeeding does not guarantee that a child will not have future orthodontic problems just as bottle-feeding does not always lead to bite misalignment. There are many factors that go into bite alignments such as thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and the biggest one GENETICS.

Decrease Your Child’s Risk of Tooth Decay

Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of cavities. According to Dr. Robert Elliott a pediatric dentist in Cary, NC a purely breastfeed baby won’t have dental decay. It is only when the baby starts eating food as well as breastfeeding that they have a risk of decay.  Breast-feed babies aren’t at risk for baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay happens when a child is put to bed with a bottle that contains a formula, milk, or fruit juice. Cavities and decay can still occur in breastfed babies, however, if parents aren’t careful.

Dental decay takes bacteria, if a child does not have the bacteria they won’t get decay. This is usually picked up from caregivers. Avoid putting pacifiers in your mouth and then the babies or licking a spoon and then letting the child use it, etc.

To prevent decay, whether bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, gently wipe your infant’s gums with a wet washcloth or soft towel after feedings. Later, when your child’s teeth finally make an appearance, start brushing them with a small toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste twice daily. For children under three, use no more than a smear of toothpaste, approximately the size of a grain of rice.

And good news, moms. The eruption of teeth doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding. Every mother and every child is different. Start weaning your child whenever it is right for both of you.

Moms, Don’t Neglect Your Own Oral Health

Mothers with newborns are completely focused on taking care of the new addition to their family. But, moms, don’t let that get in the way of setting enough time aside to focus on your oral hygiene. Cavity prevention is even more crucial for new parents, as bacteria can be transferred from you to your baby.

We Want Healthy Smiles for Mothers and Their Children.  

We start seeing children at 3 years of age. It can be beneficial to bring your child in for a “get to know” appointment. Where they come in and look around the office just to see what it looks like before their first appointment. Or coming in and watching their family member get their teeth cleaned is a great way to desensitize a child to our dental office.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, or a combination of both, it’s up to parents to start their children off right when it comes to their oral health and development. If you have any questions concerning pediatric oral health care, give us a call at 423-899-1112. Our job is to keep families smiling!

To our patients and friends of McOmie Family Dentistry, thank you.

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