Can Breastfeeding Your Child Affect His or Her Dental Health?

mother breast feeding and hugging babyThe answer is yes! Not only does breastfeeding help your baby’s fragile body fight disease and lower health risks, but it also has a significant impact on his or her oral health and development.

According to a June 2015 study conducted by Pediatrics, babies who exclusively breastfed for at least six months were actually 72% less likely to suffer from crooked teeth, including open bites, crossbites and overbites, in comparison with babies who breastfed for less than six months or not at all.

Breastfeeding is beneficial in shaping the hard palate, a bony plate on the roof of our mouths that separates the oral and nasal cavities. The tongue motions involved in breastfeeding set a pattern for correct, normal swallowing habits, as well as mandibular development and a strengthening of jaw muscles. In a study conducted by Brian Palmer, DDS, children who were breastfed experienced proper development of a well-rounded “dental arch.” This U-shaped alignment of the teeth usually helps prevent snoring, sleep apnea and a need for speech therapy or braces later in life.

In addition to the reduced chances of malocclusion, breastfeeding can save your child’s smile from Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. As you may have seen from one of our previous articles, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay stems from repeated, everyday exposure of your baby’s teeth to liquids containing sugar. For example, if a baby is put to bed with a bottle of formula, milk or fruit juice, his or her teeth come in contact with these sugary liquids until morning. However, breastfeeding eliminates the possibility of a bottle lingering in the baby’s mouth once he or she has fallen asleep, therefore avoiding prolonged exposure to these sugary liquids (please note breast milk contains sugar, as well).

Be sure to wipe your baby’s gums and teeth with a clean piece of gauze or a damp cloth after feedings, especially before bed time. If you are concerned about breastfeeding once your baby has developed his or her first tooth, don’t be alarmed – an actively nursing baby will not bite, because his or her tongue covers the lower teeth while feeding.

About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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