December 2, 2022
The health benefits of breastfeeding are touted often, but the particular ways in which nursing can benefit your infant’s oral health don’t get talked about often enough. There are also some oral health problems that might make it harder to breastfeed. If you want to understand the many ways that nursing can relate to your child’s oral health, here are a few facts that might be helpful to know.
Breastfeeding May Build a Better Bite
Some studies suggest that breastfeeding babies could reduce the risk of bite problems later in life. One published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that babies that were breastfed for the first 6 months of their life had lower rates of open/cross/overbites than those who were breastfed for less time, or not at all.
Certain Problems Can Prevent Latching
If your child has problems latching, it might not be anything to do with you. If you’ve noticed that they also have problems moving their mouth in general, they may be dealing with a lip or tongue tie.
These conditions occur when a small band of tissue called a frenulum has developed to be too short or too thick to function properly. It may sound strange, but it’s estimated that around 10% of children deal with a lip or tongue tie at some point in development.
If your child has this condition, it could explain their feeding problems. Talk to a professional if you suspect that might be the case.
Reduces the Chance of Tooth Decay
You might have heard that you should wean your child when their teeth start to sprout, but that isn’t necessarily true. If you’d like, you could still breastfeed your child well after they grow teeth—in fact, it might be better for their oral health.
Infants’ teeth are still susceptible to decay. So-called “Baby bottle tooth decay” can happen when children sleep with a bottle filled with juice or formula, allowing the sugar in those drinks to erode their enamel.
While breast milk contains some sugar, baby bottle tooth decay is less likely in children who are breastfed. Still, it’s helpful to wash your child’s gums with a moist gauze pad or washcloth to prevent oral health problems.
As you can see, breastfeeding can positively affect your child’s oral health in many ways. So long as you keep these tips in mind, your child’s baby teeth will come out healthy and beautiful.
About the Author
Dr. Maggie Davis is an expert pediatric dentist, but she’s also a mother of three that brings love and compassion to her practice. It was after she became a mother that she realized the impact she could have by treating tongue and lip-tied children.
Dr. Maggie is a Diplomate at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She’s also a graduate of Dr. Richard Baxter’s Tongue Tie Academy and TOTS: Tethered Oral Tissue program.
If you have any questions about breastfeeding or tongue-ties, she can be reached at her website or by phone at (727) 786-7551.
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