According to a new study, published in the journal, Pediatrics, children who are breastfed for two years or longer may be more likely to exhibit signs of dental disease, such as cavities. "There are some reasons to explain such an association," said Dr. Karen Peres, lead author of the study. "First, children who are exposed to breastfeeding beyond 24 months are usually those breastfed on demand and at night. Second, higher frequency of breastfeeding and nocturnal breastfeeding on demand makes it very difficult to clean teeth in this specific period." Though this study was conducted with populations outside of the United States, the implications are still noteworthy for all parents and caretakers.
Breastfeeding and Your Child's Dental Health
Countless studies have shown that breastfeeding can have a significant impact on the health of both mother and child. Among many things, breastfeeding provides babies with essential nutrients for growth and development, while simultaneously reducing their risk of common ailments (like ear infections). Some studies even suggest that mother's who breastfeed their children may have lowered risks for ovarian and breast cancers. Nevertheless, in spite of the perceived benefits of breastfeeding, dental specialists remind parents that breastfeeding, by itself, cannot prevent dental disease in children. "Even breast milk has sugar in it. That's why babies love it," said Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a family dentist, and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. While breastfeeding can help parents reduce their child's risk of dental problems, like baby bottle tooth decay (a condition stemming from prolonged exposure to sugary drinks), children who are breastfed are not immune to dental disease.
At Spring & Sprout, our specialists understand that breastfeeding is a personal choice for parents and one which families should consider in relation to their unique needs. Regardless of your family's choice, preventative care is essential to the maintenance of a healthy smile (even before your little one gets their first tooth)! Here are three quick tips from our specialists on how to keep your little one's smile healthy:
Wipe your little one's gums down with a clean, soft, damp cloth after every feeding. Healthy gums lead to healthy baby teeth (which lead to healthy adult teeth). Wiping your little one's gums down gently after each feeding can help prevent the start of dental disease by ridding the gums of food particles.
Limit shared utensils between you and your little one―especially if you have cavities. Cavity-causing bacteria can be transferred between children and their parents through shared utensils. For this reason, it's advised that parent's make sure their children have their own set of utensils during meals.
- Introduce your child to the dentist early (even before the appearance of teeth). Early visits to a dental specialist can help parents understand their child's unique dental needs early on. Additionally, by introducing your child to dental visits early you can help prevent the development of dental-related anxiety often faced by many children (and adults) by allowing your child to develop a relationship with their specialist.
For more information about basic preventative care, check out our other post here! But, remember, while these tips are intended as an educational tool, it's always best to discuss any questions or concerns about your child's specific needs with a dental professional. To schedule an appointment with a pediatric specialist, contact us today!