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Oral Health in Breastfed Babies

Published on Apr 21, 2018 and last reviewed on May 11, 2022   -  4 min read

Abstract

In this article, we will discuss how breastfeeding impacts the oral cavity in a variety of ways and the benefits of breastfeeding.

Contents
Oral Health in Breastfed Babies

What Are the Types of Breastfeeding?

Firstly, let us know how breastfeeding is classified according to the World Health Organization (WHO):

1. Exclusive Breastfeeding - where the baby is fed only the mother's breast milk for the first six months of life. However, the baby can also be given oral rehydration drops and other vitamins.

2. Predominant Breastfeeding - where the baby's major source of nutrition is from the mother's breast milk, while water and other foods such as fruit juices, water-based drinks, oral rehydration drops, vitamins, minerals, and medicines can also be given.

What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding?

Your baby's first food should be breastmilk. Mother's milk is a customized formula that contains all of the essential elements for your child's growth and development. As your child grows, the milk will adapt to his or her needs and also serve as a source of extra nutrients as you introduce solid foods into the baby's diet.

The benefits include:

1. Breast Milk Is the Best Milk:

Breast milk contains more nutrients than any other first food your baby can consume. Breastmilk, unlike formula, is gentle on your child's skin. It has just the correct amount of nutrients for infants, making it excellent for brain development and nervous system development, particularly in premature babies. Fat, protein, salt, calcium, and iron are all nutrients found in breastmilk.

2. It Boosts the Baby's Immune System:

Breastmilk is a powerful anti-infectious food. The immune system is strengthened by the anti-infective qualities, which inhibit hazardous bacterial growth. As a result, mother's milk protects babies from moderate to serious infections and keeps them out of the hospital. It also helps with other ailments like intestinal, respiratory, and ear infections.

3. It Balances the Baby's Belly:

Breast milk builds a strong, healthy baby by introducing beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract. Bacteria enter your baby's system through both the milk and the skin on the breast. After introducing solid meals to your infant around the sixth month, doctors recommend continuing to nurse so that the baby continues to acquire healthy bacteria that protect against allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and other gastrointestinal ailments.

4. Breast Milk Is Easily Digestible:

For a baby's developing digestive tract, a mother's milk is ideal. Breast milk is easier for your child to digest than formula, and it takes less energy. Your youngster can then use the energy saved to get rid of any components that he or she is having trouble digesting. Breast milk is mild, easy to absorb, and well-suited to your baby's digestive system. This provides additional fuel for your child's body function and development.

5. Breastfeeding Benefits Mom, Too:

All of the advantages are not just for your infant; mothers also reap numerous health benefits. Your body burns calories when breastfeeding, which can help you reduce the weight you acquired during pregnancy. Breastfeeding also reduces your chances of acquiring breast and ovarian cancers, as well as diabetes, later in life.

How Does Breastfeeding Influence Oral Health?

It influences two important oral health conditions.

1. Malocclusion: Babies who breastfeed exert a greater facial muscle activity while sucking the milk compared to bottle-fed babies. This squeezing movement of the baby's lip and tongue promotes the development of the face and the jawbones. On the other hand, bottle-fed babies do not exert such movements and draw the milk passively.

Moreover, the flexible material of the feeding bottle presses firmly on the baby's palate and the oral cavity, thus preventing the adequate growth of the palate as well as hassles in the alignment of the teeth.

Also, the grasping of the nipples while breastfeeding provides a perfect oronasal seal in the baby's mouth and helps the development of nasal breathing rather than mouth breathing. This eventually turns off open-mouth posture during sleep. You definitely do not want to be a reason for your child's early reason for crooked teeth.

Also, breastfeeding creates the emotional bonding between the mother and the baby and understanding of your baby's body clock at a glance.

2. Tooth Decay: It is also scientifically proven that breastfeeding protects against tooth decay in children, the reason being the ingredients of breast milk. Lactose is the main sugar component in breast milk, which does not get broken down easily by the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. Whereas the infant formulas have the sugar sucrose, which is loved by those bacteria and easily attacks the tooth to produce decay.

Another interesting reason is the anatomy of the mother's nipples compared with the bottle nipples, where the latter blocks the saliva to the upper central incisors and reduces the neutralization capacity and thus prolongs the exposure to the carbs and the acid attack, hence decay. Studies reveal that children who were breastfed up to 12 months or more show relatively low tooth decay compared to those children who were not.

How Long Should You Breastfeed Your Child?

WHO recommends only exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for the baby and continued for 12 to 24 months combined with solid foods as long as the mother and baby desire.

What Advice Is Given by Dental Practitioners to Breastfeeding Mums?

The instructions include:

  1. Wiping the gums of their babies with a soft and moist cloth immediately after breastfeeding reduces the milky deposits in the mouth, thus reducing tooth decay.

  2. Encourage feeding water after breastfeeding.

  3. Avoid over nocturnal feeding.

  4. Watch your medications during breastfeeding because they could pass on to your baby and cause potential side effects.

  5. Wipe the gums at least once a day, starting at birth and even before any teeth have emerged in your child's mouth, to promote healthy gums and good oral hygiene.

  6. Once you are able to brush, use a small quantity of fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled, child-sized toothbrush to clean your teeth every day (two times per day). Fluoride is an important component of cavity prevention for your child's teeth. Your dentist will advise and inform you on how much fluoride is appropriate for your child. Use fluoridated toothpaste in the recommended amounts for your age, drink fluoridated water (most tap water), and have fluoride varnish applied by your child's physician or dentist as needed.

  7. By the age of one, you should try to take your baby to the dentist. You can build a good relationship with your dentist that will help keep your baby's mouth healthy.

Conclusion:

Breastfeeding and teething are both critical stages in a baby's growth. Each child's journey is different, and each child will face different teething issues. However, it is essential to begin your child's oral hygiene practice early in order to ensure a bright and healthy smile.

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Last reviewed at:
11 May 2022  -  4 min read

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