I had absolutely terrible teeth when I was a kid. Despite my diligent tooth brushing and fluoride rinses, every time I would go to the dentist, they would announce the number of cavities I had…and it was always more than a few. Here's my first grade school photo; I think you'll see what I mean. Luckily, my adult teeth are 1,000 percent better than my baby teeth, and I’ve enjoyed great dental health as an adult.
I recently came across some studies discussing the impact of breastfeeding on your baby’s teeth and dental health, and I found it fascinating. For those of you as interested in dentistry as I am, read on.
Breastfeeding Can Reduce the Risk of Cavities Later On
A common misconception is that breast milk can cause cavities in babies because breast milk is so sweet. Wrong! Almost all cavities in babies are caused from supplemental foods with sugar in them, not from breast milk. In fact, breastfeeding can actually reduce the risk of cavities later on because there’s a reduced risk of baby bottle tooth decay, which is the recurring exposure of the baby’s teeth to sugary drinks. This typically happens when babies are put to bed with a bottle containing formula, milk, or juice.
Breast Milk Can Help with Tooth Decay
The antibodies in breast milk never cease to amaze me, and they come into play with dental health, too. Breast milk antibodies help to combat bacteria in the mouth, thereby counteracting the effects of tooth decay. A study by the Irish dentist Harry Torney found that, under normal circumstances, the natural antibiotic effect of antibodies was enough to keep tooth decay in check among children with healthy teeth. It’s still possible for tooth decay to occur among children with genetic defects in their teeth, however. This can be addressed by brushing your baby’s teeth or wiping them after feedings.
Breastfeeding Can Help Form a Better Bite
The physical act of nursing your baby is another way breastfeeding can improve your child’s dental health, simply by the way your baby holds his mouth in order to feed. Studies from multiple reputable sources have found that exclusively breastfed babies (for 6 months or longer) were much less likely to have bite issues later on, such as overbites or cross-bites.
None of this guarantees you’ll have a cavity-free, braces-free existence with your child, but it certainly helps!
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.