This section covers the links between breastfeeding and dental malocclusion and caries.
Blog: Breastfeeding after 12 months and dental decay
In this blog post, Emma Pickett, Breastfeeding counsellor & IBCLC and Chair of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, analyses claims that breastfeeding after 12 months promotes dental decay in babies and young children and highlights how these messages are often based on low-quality evidence and studies. A statement from Public Health England (2019) is included which reads: “Breastfeeding is the physiological norm against which other behaviours are compared; therefore, dental teams should promote breastfeeding and include in their advice the risks of not breastfeeding to general and oral health … Since 2001 the WHO has recommended that mothers worldwide exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods as breastfeeding continues up to the age of two years or beyond. These guidelines were reiterated in the WHO’s Global Strategy (WHO, 2003) and endorsed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).”
Comparative evaluation of the effects of human breast milk and plain and probiotic-containing infant formulas on enamel mineral content in primary teeth: an in vitro study
Findings from this study indicate that breastmilk may have protective effects against the demineralisation of infant teeth, with results showing an increased mean calcium wt% when soaked in breastmilk for one week. In comparison, plain and supplemented infant formula promoted mineral loss from enamel surface.
Aly AAM, Erfan D, Abou El Fadl RK. Comparative evaluation of the effects of human breast milk and plain and probiotic-containing infant formulas on enamel mineral content in primary teeth: an in vitro study. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 2020 Feb;21(1):75-84. doi: 10.1007/s40368-019-00448-2. Epub 2019 May 23. PMID: 31124082.
Risks of Dental Malocclusion
This study concluded that promoting exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age to prevent childhood diseases and disorders, should be an effective population strategy to prevent malocclusion.
Breastfeeding and the risk of dental caries
This meta-analysis found that breastfeeding in infancy may protect against dental caries. The authors called for further research in order to understand the increased risk of caries in children breastfed after 12 months.
Tham, R. et al (2015). Breastfeeding and the risk of dental caries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 62-84.
Breastfeeding and tooth development
This study evaluated the association between breastfeeding and non-nutritive sucking patterns and the prevalence of anterior open bite in primary tooth development. This study looked at a sample of 1,377 children from Sao Paolo and showed those who were not breastfed had significantly more chances of having anterior open bite compared with both children who were breastfed.
CC Romero, H Scavone-Junior, DG Garib, FA Cotrim-Ferreira, and RI Ferreira. Breastfeeding and non-nutritive sucking patterns related to the prevalence of anterior open bite in primary dentition. J Appl Oral Sci, April 1, 2011; 19(2): 161-8.
Breastfeeding and tooth decay
This US study assessed the potential risk factors for dental caries in 1,576 children aged 2-5 years old and demonstrated that there is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding or its duration are risk factors for early childhood caries, severe early childhood caries, or decayed and filled surfaces on primary teeth.
Breastfeeding and preventing fluorosis
This study examined 1,367 children were examined for fluorosis and indicates that breastfeeding for more than 6 months may protect children from developing fluorosis in the permanent incisors.