Did you know that breastfeeding
promotes an optimal relation between
the maxilla and the mandible?
Breastfeeding does not only
have important nutritious, immune and
emotional benefits for the baby.
It also helps to develop a correct positioning
of the dental arches and therefore
a good dental occlusion (the relation
between upper and lower teeth).
All babies are born with a “small” mandible in comparison to the maxilla.
The baby sucking at the breast will promote an “advance” in the mandible’s position in order to obtain a better relation between the maxillary and mandibular arches. Several studies indicate that exercising the oral and facial muscles while breastfeeding may decrease up to 50% malocclusion indicators.
Mandibular position during breastfeeding and baby bottle feeding
Baby bottle: distal position
Breastfeeding: mandibular advance
Breastfeeding also encourages the baby's nasal breathing, helps a better positioning of the tongue, a good development of the oral muscles, prevents atypical deglutition patterns, promotes a correct palate formation, and increases salivary flow, among many other advantages.
Most paediatric dentists, including us, coincide in the great importance of breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life for the correct development of the mouth and for occlusion, breathing and swallowing during childhood.
Sustained breastfeeding and caries
The connection between prolonged breastfeeding (after the year of age if it is during the day and/or after the first milk tooth erupts if it is during nighttime) and caries is a great controversy.
As caries is a multifactor infectious disease we are convinced that there is no single factor that causes it on its own.
However, most mothers who breastfeed on demand during the night –the moment of maximum susceptibility to bacterial attack because there is almost no salivary flow – don't clean the baby's teeth afterwards, increasing the risk by combining the absence of oral hygiene
with the presence of a substrate
(milk) on the dental surface.
Moreover there are other factors that increase caries risk such as: children that wake up several times per night to eat (breast or baby bottle); time that the child sleeps with the liquid on his/her mouth; excessive consumption of sugar-rich weaning foods and drinks
; insufficient fluoride exposure
; presence of enamel defects (hypoplasia)
; early bacterial transmission
; among others.
As the risk of developing a disease (including caries) can vary depending on each child, parents must take their babies to a healthcare professional so that he/she can identify the individual caries risk and apply the preventive measures needed according to each case.
Our advice on breastfeeding is:
- Remember that lactation will not cause caries on its own; however, in our everyday practice we see many nursing babies with carious lesions if sustained breastfeeding combines with a lack of oral hygiene and/or if the baby breastfeeds several times during the night; if the child stays prolonged hours with the liquid on his/her mouth; if there is excessive consumption of sugar-rich weaning foods and drinks; when the fluoride exposure is insufficient; if enamel defects are present); if early bacterial transmission from the parents’ saliva has taken place; etc.
- Start cleaning you baby’s mouth as soon as possible, even if he/she doesn’t have teeth. You can clean his/her gums with moistened gauze, cloth or a silicone rubber fingertip toothbrush during his/her bath.
- Once the first milk tooth erupts gradually decrease breastfeeding on demand during the night. If you decide not to, it is very important to clean your baby's teeth immediately after.
- Take you baby to a paediatric dentist before his/her first birthday to receive the information about the preventive measures to avoid caries and other oral diseases.
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