Effects of breastfeeding on children’s dental health
Numerous studies published over the years have promoted the various health benefits of long-term breastfeeding for children, but new research by a team of academics at the University of California, San Francisco, believes that frequent breastfeeding after the age of two may in fact increase the risk of tooth decay in children.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed during the first six months, continuing to the age of two and beyond along with the consumption of solid foods. Even though breastfeeding itself does not cause cavities, the researchers believe that the actual process of sucking may be related to the problem.
For their study, the academics examined the teeth of 458 babies born in low-income families in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Their dental health was assessed at the ages of six months, 12 months and 36 months. Results showed that 40% of the babies breastfed between six months and 24 months developed tooth decay, while the figure reached 48% among frequently breastfed toddlers beyond that age, Reuters reported.
The exact reason for this is not clear but researchers speculate that during breastfeeding, a baby’s teeth have no proper contact with saliva, which has been scientifically proven to protect the mouth against oral bacteria. Breastfeeding therefore leaves the teeth exposed to the adverse effects of leftover food residue.
This is particularly noticeable among babies who sleep while sucking and often drink milk during the night, as this can prevent the normal circulation of saliva in their mouth, the study found.