The Effects of Breastfeeding on Teeth
Are you aware of the effects of breastfeeding on teeth? It promotes good alignment of the baby's teeth and helps prevent cavities.
Breastfeeding is a beneficial option for both mother and child. But, do you know what the effects of breastfeeding on teeth are?
You may have heard that breast milk is the perfect food for every child and that it transforms according to the baby’s needs. You may also be aware that it increases defenses and reduces the risk of suffering asthma, infections, and obesity.
At the same time, you may already know that breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and child and that breastfeeding moms recover faster from the postpartum period and have reduced chances of developing ovarian and breast cancer.
However, not everyone knows the contributions of breastfeeding to the development of the mouth and the health of the teeth. Read on and discover another reason to choose this practice.
Breastfeeding and the position of the teeth
Breastfeeding is a practice that promotes the correct alignment of the teeth. The movements that the baby makes to feed from its mother’s breast promote the development of the jaws and the muscles of the mouth and face.
When a baby is born, its lower jaw is positioned well behind the upper jaw. Thanks to the effort the child must make to suck the milk from its mother’s breast, the jaw is able to move forward.
When the jaws grow and fit together harmoniously, there’s a lower chance that there will be bite problems in the future, as chewing, swallowing, and other functions of the mouth are done properly. In turn, the teeth tend to be positioned in the correct place when they erupt.
“Breastfeeding contributes to preventing dentomaxillofacial anomalies and dental malocclusions.”
-Sociedad Española de Ortodoncia (SEDO)-.
Breastfeeding helps prevent malocclusion problems, such as open bite, overbite, and misaligned teeth. This decreases the likelihood of needing orthodontics in the future.
In addition, breastfeeding promotes the proper development of the baby’s orofacial musculature. Therefore, the sucking, swallowing, and breathing functions occur properly, which also prevents bite problems later on.
This isn’t the case if the child is bottle-fed, because in this case, the milk reaches the infant’s mouth almost effortlessly. In turn, the shape and tone of the bony and muscular structures of the mouth and face may be altered.
Breastfeeding to prevent tooth decay
Breastfeeding offers another benefit for teeth as well: It reduces the risk of tooth decay. While it’s true that both breast-fed children and those who drink milk from a bottle are susceptible to this oral disease, the former are better protected.
Early childhood cavities, or baby bottle tooth decay, is a particular form of the disease that affects a baby’s first teeth. Its progression is very rapid and destructive, as it alters the oral functions and quality of life of children in their early years.
Giving a child a bottle with sugary drinks is the main cause of this disorder. In addition, when a baby falls asleep with the bottle nipple in their mouth, the risk increases.
You should know that both breast milk and artificial milk contain sugars. If this substance isn’t removed from the tooth surfaces with proper oral hygiene, the disease can originate. The addition of sweeteners, fruit juices, and other sweet drinks in baby bottles is an even bigger problem.
However, although the sugar in breast milk can favor the appearance of cavities if there’s no proper oral hygiene, it’s also a protective food. Its composition contains other substances, such as arginine and urea, which increase the pH of saliva and reduce the demineralization of enamel.
In addition, the immunoglobulins that are part of breast milk inhibit bacterial growth. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, and proteins such as casein, promote remineralization. At the same time, during breastfeeding, the mother’s nipple is placed at the back of the baby’s mouth, therefore, the contact of milk with the teeth is minimal.
Other benefits of breastfeeding in children’s mouths
In addition to preventing dental malpositions and reducing the risk of caries, breastfeeding provides other benefits for babies’ mouths:
- Provides essential nutrients: Breast milk provides all the nutrients children need to grow properly. This includes the development and mineralization of the teeth that are forming inside the bone.
- It favors the development of the child’s immune system.
- It avoids the installation of harmful habits: Breastfeeding satisfies the baby’s oral, nutritional, and affective needs. Because of this, breastfeeding children are less likely to suck their thumbs or use pacifiers and bottles for a prolonged period of time. These sucking behaviors predispose little ones to problems regarding the development of maxillofacial structures and biting.
The mother’s teeth during breastfeeding
You should know that breastfeeding a baby doesn’t affect the mother’s teeth. For a long time, there was a popular belief that children take calcium from their mother’s teeth to form their own.
However, both during pregnancy and breastfeeding, little ones get the minerals they need from their mother’s diet, and this doesn’t affect her oral health.
What’s quite common among mothers is the unintentional neglect of their own bodies. The demands of babies and fatigue can lead to neglect of routines that are essential to keeping the mouth healthy.
Poor nutrition, poor oral hygiene, and lack of dental checkups can cause oral health problems, but breastfeeding can’t. And this also has repercussions on the baby’s oral health, as the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the parents’ mouths can be transmitted to their children.
Taking care of the mother’s oral health during breastfeeding is essential to reduce the risk of spreading germs to the child’s mouth.
Breastfeeding is always the best option
Breastfeeding benefits both the mother and her baby. Choosing to breastfeed has many positive effects that bottle and formula feeding can’t match.
That’s why it’s advisable to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months. Then, during complementary feeding, continue breastfeeding until 2 years of age or as long as the mother and baby wish.
It’s also important to breastfeed directly as much as possible and to reduce bottle feeding, even if it contains breast milk. Because, as we’ve told you, the movements in the baby’s mouth aren’t the same.
The positive influence of breastfeeding on the baby’s teeth is another reason to opt for this beneficial practice.