Does Breastfeeding Prevent Early Childhood Cavities?
Parents often wonder whether the choice of breastfeeding will help reduce a baby’s risk of developing dental cavities in future years. Can primarily nursing an infant instead of bottle-feeding truly make a dental difference? The answer turns out to be—maybe. What’s actually most important is to keep your child’s mouth as free of sugar as possible at all times. Just about any residual food or liquid particles, other than pure water, that are left in the mouth contain sugar or compounds that become sugar. Surprisingly, that includes breast milk as well as formula.
Cavities are actually a bacterial infection, usually caused by Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans). Because this bacterium is so common, your infant almost surely has it once he or she has one or more teeth. S. mutans can feed on any small particle of sugar left on that tooth. After consuming the sugar, the bacteria produce acid, and this residual acid causes decay.
Keeping your baby’s mouth sugar-free means cleaning his or her gums with a soft cloth after every feeding, even if no teeth have yet emerged. As an added benefit, your infant will get used to good oral hygiene, so transitioning later to toothbrushing will be easier.
Also key is not letting your infant drift off to sleep during feedings. Sugar residue remains in the mouth whether your child is drinking breast milk, formula or any other nonwater beverage. What’s more, babies (like all human beings) produce less saliva while sleeping, so those sugar particles are less likely to be “rinsed” away.
Breast milk does contain natural chemicals that are beneficial in many ways; one even offers some resistance to S. mutans. And compared with formula or juice, breast milk contributes relatively little to acid production in your child’s mouth. Still, lengthy nighttime nursing is risky for future development of cavities.
At your next visit to KiDDS Dental, we’ll tell you more about how to properly care for your infant’s teeth to help him or her get a good start in avoiding cavities, whether fed primarily by breast or bottle.
Give us a call at (509)-891-7070 to schedule today!