If you are a new parent, you probably may have questions about your newborn baby’s health. During this stage, babies’ dental health is not a top priority as they do not have any teeth. You may not know much about breastfeeding, formula, breast milk, or other factors that generally affect the health of your infant’s quickly-growing baby teeth.

Breastfeeding is one of the first decisions all mothers make for their babies. It may help your baby fight infections and reduce health risks like asthma, ear infections, and obesity in children.

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But did you know breastfeeding can impact the dental health of your newborn baby? Yes, breast milk has numerous benefits. According to the World Health Organization or WHO, breast milk can significantly reduce your child’s mortality rate. 

This milk from the mother can have lasting effects that lead to several health benefits, even in adulthood. The milk has many proven health benefits, such as protection from chronic diseases and allergies and promoting cognitive and sensory development. Moreover, breastfeeding has also been beneficial in maintaining good oral health in infants.

To make life easy, here we take a look at surprising ways that breast milk and breastfeeding may affect the health of your baby’s teeth.

Breast Milk and Breast Feeding Alone Do not Cause Cavities

Many new parents have a common misconception- breastfeeding might cause cavities in newborns and babies because breast milk contains sugar. This is not true. In several studies, infants who exclusively breastfeed after birth were found to have strong teeth free of enamel decay.

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In a fascinating 1999 study, teeth were immersed in various solutions. The different solutions included water, breast milk, a breast milk-sugar solution, and others. The researchers compared the rates of tooth decay of these teeth in these solutions.

They concluded that breast milk was identical to water in this study and did not cause any decay. In fact, in a follow-up study, the researchers also found that breast milk made the baby’s teeth healthier. 

It is important to note that all babies’ cavities are often caused by supplemental foods, sugars, and other substances besides breast milk.

The Antibodies in Breast Milk Counteract the Effects of Tooth Decay

It is interesting to know that breast milk helps fight back against bacteria in your mouth? This is why it can counteract the effects of tooth decay. A study confirmed that, under normal circumstances, the natural antibiotic effect of antibodies was enough to keep your infant’s tooth decay in check. Meaning kids with healthy teeth have fewer chances of decay. 

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However, decay may take root if kids had genetic defects in their teeth or had soft enamel. Hence, it is possible that some breastfed children can develop tooth cavities. This could be avoided by regularly wiping down the gums and teeth post-feeding. You may also use baby toothpaste and a baby toothbrush. You might also begin to brush your baby’s teeth start erupting.

Breastfeeding May Help Build a Better Bite Structure

Breastfeeding may be better for your baby’s mouth too, compared to bottle-feeding or formula. Studies confirm that infants who exclusively take breast milk for the first six months are much less likely to suffer from bite issues. These issues – like overbites, open bites, and cross-bites in the future.

Several recent studies, one in 2015, confirm that kids who regularly took breast milk for the first six months have fewer chances to have teeth alignment issues. Babies who did not take breast milk often developed different types of teeth alignment problems. Moreover, those babies who exclusively fed on breast milk for a shorter time may also develop teeth alignment issues.

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Other factors, including pacifier use, genetics, and thumb sucking, may also affect your baby’s alignment. We all know that every baby is different from the other. So the best thing you can do as a mom is to take your baby to the dentist and make sure that the dentist can monitor their tooth eruption. 

Your dentist can check thoroughly if the teeth are coming out at the right time. They can also check if their permanent teeth are coming in at the correct time.

You Don’t Have to Wean When Your Baby Gets Teeth

It is a common question that often pops up when your newborn baby develops its baby teeth. Many moms may ask when to stop breastfeeding when their baby starts teething. The answer is – you can continue breastfeeding till the time you want. 

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you can continue breastfeeding for the whole first year. The World Health Organization encourages moms to continue breastfeeding for two years. Remember that every baby is different for breastfeeding, and every mother is other. Therefore, you should stop breastfeeding once you think it is best for you and the baby, not just because the teeth come in.

Breast Milk Can Reduces the Risk for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Another primary benefit of breastfeeding is a reduced risk of baby bottle tooth decay. A problem common among feeding babies. It is probably because your baby’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugar drinks. 

This type of decay often occurs when a kid sleeps with baby bottles in their mouth. Even though the bottle may contain formula, milk, or fruit juice. It is fine when your baby takes natural water because then their teeth will not be bathed in sugary liquids. Note that baby bottle tooth decay generally affects your baby’s upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.

Could Breast Milk Protect Against Tooth Decay?

Some researchers suggest that breast milk and breastfeeding might actually protect against tooth decay. In contrast, formula milk may play a significant role in developing decay.

Antibodies in breast milk may help to reduce the growth of bacteria, including those like Streptococcus mutans. It is the bacterium that causes tooth decay. Lactoferrin, a protein found in breast milk which actually kills S. mutans. Experts also reported that S. mutans might not be able to use lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, compared to sucrose found in some formulas.

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They also showed that some formula milk dissolves tooth enamel, significantly reducing pH, thus making the mouth more acidic. This acidic mouth supports the growth of bacteria, eventually leading to dental decay. Therefore, they concluded that the formula has the potential to cause decay.

Is Breastfeeding Different to Bottle-feeding?

You would be surprised to know that there is a vast difference between sucking on a bottle and sucking on the breast? They are two different things.  

In bottle-feeding, the milk is released into the front of your baby’s mouth and pools around the teeth. On the other hand, the kid draws the nipple into their mouth during breastfeeding. This process releases the milk into the throat. It automatically makes the baby swallow the breast milk in one second. 

When your baby falls asleep with a bottle, the teat slowly leaks milk leftover in the feeding bottle into your baby’s mouth. On the other hand, the breast does not release milk unless the baby actively sucks it.

Other Benefits of Breast Milk

It is evident and proven that the well-balanced composition of the mother’s milk contains all the necessary nutrients required for the all-round development of your baby. It also helps develop their facial bones and later the growth of their teeth.

Breast Milk Helps Growth of Facial Muscles

At the same time, breastfeeding is beneficial and directly affects your baby’s facial muscles and jawbone. How? Feeding on a bottle usually requires less effort in suckling the milk out as there is a non-stop flow of milk from the bottle. This process leads to weak movements of facial muscles, lips, and tongue – contributing least to the development of jawbones and teeth alignment.

In fact, bottle-feed may lead to dental issues, like improper teeth alignment, crowding between teeth, and even defects in palatal growth later in life. 

In contrast, good exercise involves good exercise when your baby makes a continuous effort to suck milk while breastfeeding. As a result, it stimulates the movement of your baby’s facial muscles and helps in the growth and correct alignment of their teeth.

Dental Benefits of Breast Milk

Also note that breast milk has reduced the risk of other dental concerns of tooth decay, especially in babies. Another significant benefit of exclusive breastfeeding is a reduced risk of baby bottle tooth decay.

In contrast, the frequent, prolonged exposure of your baby’s teeth to formula drinks high in sugar content is more harmful. According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay occurs when your baby is put to bed with a bottle. Even ones containing milk, formula, or fruit juice.

The lactose present in human milk is very favorable and does not support the growth of oral bacteria. Besides, the antibodies like IgG and IgA present in breast milk also prevent any infections or bacterial growth. It is already proven that antibodies found in breast milk prevent gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

Is Formula Milk Harmful?

Formula milk contains large quantities of sucrose, making it more susceptible to bacterial infection and demineralization. Especially when sucrose-containing formula milk comes in contact with the baby teeth. 

During bottle feeding, saliva flow is usually blocked in the upper incisor area of your baby’s mouth. It increases their risk of dental caries. Your doctor will always advise breastfeeding over feeding a baby using a bottle.  

Most formulas use skimmed soya milk or cow milk as a base and include other components like iron. In addition, this milk may also contain a composition of probiotics and fatty acids to make it attain the approx nutritional value as that of human milk.

But formula milk scores much more in nutritional value. Hence this milk is often hard for the infant to digest. On the other hand, a balanced casein and whey protein composition often make human milk easier to digest. It also reduces the risk of diarrhea, a stomach infection, and stomach inflammation.

Therefore, the emphasis on breastfeeding is good for your baby’s oral and general health. But when mixed with a balanced diet that avoids sugary stuff it is ideal for your little one. As a parent, you should start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first ones start to erupt. Also, visit your dentist for care and advice.