Does Breastfeeding Affect Teeth?

Breastfeeding and Dental Health

Any person needs strong and healthy teeth to help them eat and speak properly. Therefore it is imperative that you look after your teeth from a young age. Your child's baby teeth need to be healthy to make space for their permanent teeth.

Is it Possible for Breast Milk to Cause Tooth Decay?

‘It would be evolutionary suicide for breast milk to cause decay…” La Leche League

To answer this commonly asked question, we have to look at a few facts. 

baby eating chocolate

What Causes Tooth Decay?

  • Sugar intake: Tooth decay is mostly caused by too much sugar. Sugar helps bacteria grow and the acids that bacteria make cause the teeth to decay. A lot of the liquids contain sugar, including milk, formula, and fruit juices.
  • Strep mutans entering a baby’s mouth.
  • Salivary disorders.
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy.
  • Bad dietary habits of the family.
  • Bad oral and overall hygiene of the family.
  • Family genetics (such as the presence of enamel defects).
  • Other conditions — for example, low birth-weight (including prematurity), malnutrition, asthma, recurrent infections, and chronic diseases. 
baby eating koeksisters

Does breast milk contain any components that cause tooth decay?

No, it does not. 

Breast milk has immune factors that lessen the presence of unfriendly bacteria, and laboratory tests show human milk does not promote tooth decay. 

The contents of breast milk:

  • Proteins: The proteins in breast milk are easily digested by babies than any other type of protein. Examples:
  1.  Taurine:  Helps to develop the brain and eyes. 
  2. Lactoferrin: The highest concentration is found in colostrum, but continue throughout the whole first year.  It protects against bacteria such as staphylococci and E. coli.
  • Self-Digesting Fats: Fat is an essential source of energy for babies and is necessary for brain development. Examples:
  1. Lipase.
  2. Linoleic and linolenic.
  3. Docosahexanoic acid (DHA).
  4. Arachidonic acid (AA).
  • Hormones and Enzymes: Hormones and Enzymes influence the baby’s growth, metabolism, and physiology. Examples:
  1. Epidermal Growth Factor:  Helps to maintain the development of tissues in the digestive tract and in another place. 
  2. Lysozyme:  It’s a natural form of protection from infectious organisms like Salmonella and E.coli.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium, phosphorus, and iron are three important minerals found in breast milk.  Breast milk also contains vitamin C that increases the absorption of iron.  
  • Antibodies: An antibody recognizes and helps fight infections and other foreign things in the body. All types of antibodies are found in breast milk, with the highest concentration in colostrum.

Breastfeeding and Tooth Decay 

baby wants sweets

Breast milk by itself is the healthiest food for babies’ teeth. It has a tendency to slow bacterial growth and acid production. 

However, when breast milk is given with sweetened drinks or foods, the rate of tooth decay can be quicker than with sugar alone. 

Breast milk has as well as cow's milk contains lactose sugar, which gives food to cavity-causing bacteria when allowed to sit in the mouth, but it doesn’t mean that cavities can develop on breast milk alone. 

Then again, formula is definitely cavity promoting as it contains more sugars other than lactose.

'Breastfeeding may act preventively and inhibit the development of nursing caries in children.'

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