We want to celebrate the power of Mums and showcase the amazing benefits of breastfeeding on a child’s oral development. Breastfeeding not only plays a hugely important role in an infant's overall health, growth and development - it also has considerable impacts on developing healthy and strong teeth.
So what’s so great about Breastfeeding?
Human milk is the best form of calcium and lactose - both of which are key components in feeding strong and healthy teeth and gums. Lack of calcium can cause deficiencies that result in weakened bones and teeth, leading to tooth loss and cavities as well as other symptoms like insomnia, tremors and lowered heart rate in infants.
La Leche League GB has found various studies which show that a breastfed child is significantly less likely to suffer from tooth decay then a child who is artificially fed. Baby formulas are often packed full of sugars without having the protective and strengthening elements of human milk. A study by Pamela Erickson, DDS, Ph.D. et al looked at the effects of formula on enamel and found most artificial baby milk reduced the pH (acidity) significantly, supported significant bacterial growth and dissolved enamel. Some caused decay in a matter of weeks.
This is the opposite effect of breast milk which inhibits cavity-causing bacteria because of its high pH level. Human milk also actively strengthens teeth by leaving deposits of calcium and phosphorus, and a breastfed baby is less likely to suffer from discoloured teeth caused by excess fluoride. Therefore breastmilk is the ideal nourishment for healthy and strong teeth and gums.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of baby bottle tooth decay. A result of prolonged exposure to of an infant’s teeth to sugary drinks. With breastfeeding, when an infant suckles the milk tends to go straight to the back of the throat. The sucking motion also means that the liquid is less likely to stay in the mouth, whereas bottles can drip liquid leaving a residue that is not swallowed.
Several studies including Pediatrics 2015 and included in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 2017 that have also shown that there is a link between breastfeeding and a strong and healthy bite. Babies who were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months were less likely to have teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites, and overbites.
But some people have linked Breastfeeding to tooth decay?
It’s a common misconception that breastfeeding causes tooth decay - although there are cases of this, it’s not as a result of the breast milk itself. Decay occurs as a result when the infant is being fed and whether their teeth are being properly cleaned.
Some dentists advise that mothers stop breastfeeding infants when their first teeth have come through. However, the World Health Organisation recommends infants can continue to be breastfed along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond - and that this has highly beneficial impacts on their immune system and general health and development.
One reason dentists have been known to say this is because one of the main causes of infant tooth decay is breastfeeding and bottle feeding at night. Saliva is not as active at night meaning that milk residue is more like to be sitting in their mouth and around their teeth and gums for an extended period of time. Therefore, after a child’s first tooth has come through it is widely suggested that mothers start to wean off breastfeeding at night when they can.
How can I prevent tooth decay from occuring?
There are preventative measures that you can take to stop tooth decay as a result of breastfeeding occurring. After nursing a child, especially at night, it is important to cleanse infant’s teeth and gums. Use a washcloth or a soft toothbrush, and some gentle, natural toothpaste to make sure no milk residue is sitting in their mouth and around their gums.
Natural toothpaste like ours are perfectly suited to young children - certified organic and completely SLS and fluoride free. Just a little heads up, kids love our Red Mandarin flavour.
So let’s celebrate the power of mothers and the nurturing care that they can provide for a child that cannot be replicated. Together we can push for a society that is more breastfeeding friendly!
- La Leche League https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-dental-health/
- Breastfeeding An Overview of Oral and General Health Benefits, Salone, Vann and Dee, J Am Dent Assoc, 2013
- Women's Health Organisation http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/