While breastfeeding is not necessary for the good oral health of your baby, it can nonetheless have multiple benefits. On the other hand, moms should take some important precautions when breastfeeding to help protect their babies' oral health, too!
Each mother and each baby has different needs. That means for some, breastfeeding is just not the right choice. For those that do breastfeed, here’s some important oral health information for you to take into consideration:
Breastfeeding may result in a better bite.
A June 2015 study from Pediatrics has found that babies that were breastfed exclusively for six months were 72% less likely to develop malocclusion. These babies were less likely to develop crossbites, open bites, and overbites than babies who were breastfed for less than six months or that were not breastfed at all.
Now, this doesn’t mean your baby definitely will not need braces someday just because he or she is breastfed. And it also doesn’t mean that bottle fed babies will necessarily develop malocclusion. There are lots of other factors that may have an impact on your child’s future orthodontic needs, including genetics, pacifier use, and thumb sucking.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.
Baby bottle tooth decay results when a baby's teeth are frequently exposed for long periods of time to drinks that contain sugar . This can happen when babies are regularly sent to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice. Breastfeeding, especially when done exclusively, can minimize or remove this risk.
Be careful: breastfed babies can still get cavities!
Breastfed babies can get cavities. In fact, in some cases breastfeeding can even cause cavities. Breast milk is viewed by many as more ‘natural’, but it still contains sugar just like formula does which means that without good oral hygiene, it can cause cavities, too.
So whether you're breast feeding or bottle feeding your baby, it’s important to clean his or her gums at least daily and ideally after each feeding with a gauze pad or a clean, damp cloth. And as soon as the first tooth comes in, start a twice daily brushing routine to avoid tooth decay from the start.