Does Breastfeeding Cause Tooth Decay?

Several recent studies, one in Pediatrics in 2015 and one in the August 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months were less likely to have teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites, and overbites, than those exclusively breastfed for shorter lengths of time or not at all.

Human milk is the first food of a newborn that provides all the nutrients and energy needed for the proper growth and health. Breast milk that is also called ‘liquid gold’ is like armor for the child from several health threats in the present and future.

Breast milk has many benefits and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Breastmilk reduces child mortality rate and has lasting effects leading to several health benefits, even in adulthood.”  Apart from many proven health benefits like protection from allergies, chronic diseases, and promoting cognitive and sensory development, breastfeeding has been also found helpful in maintaining good oral health in infants.

It is evident that the well-balanced composition of human milk provides all necessary nutrients required for the proper development of a child but it also helps in developing facial bones and later growth of teeth.

At the same time, breastfeeding also has a direct effect on facial muscles and jawbone. Feeding on a bottle requires less effort in suckling milk and the non-stop flow of milk from the bottle leads to weak movements of facial muscles, lips, and tongue contributing least to the development of jawbones and teeth alignment. Bottle feed may lead to dental issues like crowding between teeth, improper teeth alignment, and even issues in palatal growth. But in breastfeeding, continuous effort to suck milk stimulates the movement of facial muscles and helps in growth and correct alignment of teeth.

Breastmilk is found to have reduced the risk of another major dental concern of dental decay in babies. “Another benefit of exclusive breastfeeding is a reduced risk of baby bottle tooth decay, the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. This type of tooth decay often occurs when a baby is put to bed with a bottle – even ones containing formula, milk, or fruit juice.” American Dental Association.

Formula milk that uses skimmed cow milk or soya milk as the base and includes other components like iron, the composition of fatty acid and probiotics to make it attain the approximate nutritional value as of human milk, if compared to human milk, scores much more in nutritional value and thus makes it hard for the infant to digest. On the other hand, a balanced composition of casein and whey protein makes human milk easier to digest reducing the risk of diarrhea, a stomach infection, and inflammation of the stomach.

“For mothers, it is also advised to take good care of oral and overall health. Changes in hormones during pregnancy and then postpartum may affect the oral health of mothers. Thus, it is always advised to get a dental check-up after postpartum.

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