How Does Breastfeeding Affect Your Baby’s Dental Health?
Most moms know that breastfeeding is linked to having healthier babies. Research clearly demonstrates the health and nutritional benefits your baby can have from drinking breast milk. But did you know that breastfeeding has other positive effects on your child’s dental health?
Breastfeeding Helps Your Child Develop a Better Bite
A 2015 study found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months were 72% less likely to have crooked teeth. This means that these babies are less likely to develop open bites, cross bites and overbites compared to babies who are breastfed for less than six months or not at all.
According to experts, the reason breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing crooked teeth or jaws is the muscle mechanics required during breastfeeding. Unlike bottle feeding, the breastfed baby uses the jaw, tongue and facial muscles in a more coordinated way, which helps strengthen the baby’s jaw muscles. A stronger jaw creates a better foundation for a child’s teeth to align properly.
However, just because you’re breastfeeding your baby doesn’t mean they won’t need braces when they grow up. Other factors such as genetics, pacifier use and thumb sucking can also affect the alignment of your child’s teeth. For this reason, you should limit your child’s pacifier use and thumb sucking habits.
Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk of Caries from a Bottle
Another benefit of breastfeeding your baby is that your child’s risk of developing bottle cavities is reduced. This type of tooth decay usually occurs when a baby is placed in bed with a bottle of formula, milk or juice. The baby often falls asleep with a bottle in his mouth, which exposes his teeth to the sugars in the liquid for a longer time. This type of tooth decay usually occurs on a baby’s upper front teeth. However, your child’s other teeth may also be affected.
Breastfeeding Can Cause Caries
Just like formula, breast milk contains sugar. Therefore, you should take care of your baby’s teeth and gums shortly after birth. Make sure to burp your baby after each feeding to reduce the chance of breast milk accumulating in his mouth. Wipe your baby’s gums daily with a clean, damp gauze pad or soft cloth. When your baby’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Appointment
Typically, your baby’s milk teeth begin to erupt at around 6 months of age. The Turkish Dental Association recommends taking your child to the dentist within six months of their first tooth erupting or when they are one year old.