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Breastfeeding and tooth decay or caries

Mothers often wonder if longterm breastfeeding is harmfull for their babies' teeth. Especially when a baby still nurses at night, the concern about dental caries is present..

As soon as the first tooth erupts, it is time to start a good brushing habit. in fact, cleaning the baby's mouth can started befor the first tooth erupts. For the proper dental care for an infant, please contact your pediatrician or your dentist.

If your baby falls asleep while nursing, you may try to roll the baby on his back to facilitate swallowing the last few drops of milk. Some babies accept a parents finger for a few seconds, which also helps to clear away any milk.

It appears that breastmilk may protect the baby teeth against tooth decay. The sugars present in milk are not a good nutrient for the cariogenic bacteria. Also, the immuneproperties of breastmilk help to prevent or slow down the growth of these bacteria. Breastmilk is less acid than for instance fruit juice, which prevents dissolution of the tooth enamel. At last, nursing on a soft, pliable nipple is better for the alignment of teeth than sucking on a rigid silicon nipple or pacifier.

A combination of breastfeeding, proper dental hygiene and frequent visits to the dentist are a solid base for healthy teeth.
More information on breastfeeding and dental health can be found on Dr. Brian Palmer's website.

Further reading:

Oulis, C. et al. Feeding practices of Greek children with and without nursing caries. Pediatr Dent 1999; 21(7):409-16
Weerheijm, K.L. Prolonged demand breastfeeding and nursing caries. Caries 1998, 32(1):46-50
Rugg-Gun, A. et al. Effect of human milk on plaque pH in situ and enamel dissolution in vitro compared with bovine milk, lactose and sucrose. CAries REs 1985; 19(4):327-34


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