Many people believe that breastfeeding, especially at night is linked to tooth decay. Breastfeeding is equated to letting the baby sleep with a bottle of milk in his or her mouth. There is no evidence to show that the two are connected. However, breastfed babies are prone to cavities and thus proper dental hygiene is recommended regardless of age. A children dentist will rightly guide you on proper dental hygiene for breastfeeding babies.
The chances of tooth decay are higher in babies who are bottle-fed. This is because when a baby is fed from a bottle, the milk or juice forms a pool in the baby’s mouth. If the milk remains in the mouth for some time, then it penetrates the baby’s teeth and this could lead to tooth decay. Breastmilk, however, cannot cause such a pool in the baby’s mouth since the milk will not flow from the breast unless the baby is energetically sucking. The baby swallows as he sucks thus it is not possible for pooling to occur. Also, when the baby sucks, the milk will enter the mouth behind the teeth. Reports show that babies who are breastfed with no bottle-feeds have a very minimal chance of developing tooth decay.
Bacteria that are present in plaque usually cause tooth decay. The bacteria converts sugar into acid, which then eat up the teeth causing decay. A baby can get the bacteria if they come into contact with saliva from another person. Therefore, when the baby starts feeding, ensure that the toddler uses his/her own utensils. If they are shared with other members of the family, then clean them thoroughly before feeding your child. You should also avoid giving the baby wet kisses on the mouth or chewing their food for them. If you want their food to have a smooth texture, you should mash or blend it.
Breastmilk contains lactoferrin, which is a compound that kills bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Studies show that babies can get immunization to prevent them from contacting the bacteria from their parents or other caregivers. Since breastmilk does not increase the chances of tooth decay, pediatric dentists encourage mothers to breastfeed their children for as long as they like. The antibodies in milk may even counter the bacteria in the mouth to prevent tooth decay. Research also shows that when baby teeth are immersed in breastmilk they tend to become stronger. However, if a little sugar is added to the breastmilk, the decaying effect is much worse than that of a normal sugar solution.
Defects in enamel make the teeth vulnerable to decay even in the presence of antibodies in breastmilk. Therefore, parents should consider pediatric dental care so that defects in enamel can be detected and prevented to avoid tooth decay.
When the child starts having other feeds, it is important to clean their teeth at least twice daily and give them water after meals to sweep away the sugar and food particles. Also, don’t forget pediatric dentistry for dental care to prevent decay.