5 must knows about breastfeeding

We often get asked about breast feeding and oral health for infants.  As parents and mothers the team at bcdental understand that breast feeding is a very personal choice impacted by many aspects and can be complex decision.

If you are breastfeeding, there are choices about how long to breastfeed and we often get questions about the impact on oral health.  As mothers our hygienists Denise Montry and Emma Walton often talk about the choices and wanted to share some informative thoughts from the University of Adelaide’s “Breastfeeding and Oral health: Information for Patients” Dec 2016:

Breastfeeding can influence the positioning of teeth (occlusion) and tooth decay

Breastfeeding helps the development of good occlusion by stimulating the facial bones and muscles to develop the following ways:

  1. Mother’s nipple shape uniquely to baby’s mouth assisting in adequate positioning of the teeth.
  2. The movement of lips and tongue during breastfeeding forces the child to draw breast milk through a squeeze action that is more demanding than the effort required with bottle feeding. Because of this breastfed babies usually have greater facial muscle activity that assists in a more balanced development of the occlusion.

Breastfeeding protects against tooth decay in a couple of ways:

  1. Lactose (the sugar in breast milk) is less appealing for decay causing bacteria than the sugars found in infant formulas (sucrose). 
  2. Breast milk contains antibodies and antimicrobial that slow down bacterial growth.
  3. Mother’s nipple adaptation to the baby’s mouth enables a better flow of saliva to the upper front teeth. This saliva flows help reduce cavity causing bacteria. Bottle teats reduce saliva flow to upper front teeth and expose teeth to sugars and bacteria for a prolonged periods.

It’s comforting to know that up to 12 months, infants who are exposed to breastfeeding for longer, have reduced risk of tooth decay. As soon as teeth appear it’s a good habit to start cleaning them gently twice a day.

The rate of dental cavities risk is greater in children who continue to breastfed after 12 months of age.  This is thought to be because the night-time “comfort feed” is often the last feed to stop.  This comfort feed means older breastfed children’s teeth are often left uncleaned after the night feed and remnants sit on teeth and mouth for overnight when there’s a reduced saliva flow so there’s more change for bacteria to start cavities.

Just to add to the chaos of parenthood, we do recommend brushing your childs teeth twice a day as soon as they appear.

If you have any concerns about your childs oral health, peace of mind is just a phone call away.  To support early oral health, children 6 years old and younger will have their first visit at no cost at bcdental.  Call 9589 2675 for appointments


Photo taken from @BLVART and picture by @onlyama_!