The Connection Between Breastfeeding and Early Childhood Caries

Breastfeeding offers the perfect nutrition for babies. It also provides infants with numerous health benefits including reduced risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Exclusive breastfeeding has also been linked with a lowered risk of baby bottle tooth decay. Still, exclusively breastfed babies may not be immune from early childhood caries.

Can exclusive breastfeeding cause cavities?

The answer is yes. Breast milk, like baby formula, is sugary. As explained in, the natural sugar in the milk turns to acid by bacteria in the child’s mouth. The formed acid then dissolves the enamel, causing teeth to decay. The reduced saliva flow during sucking and the teeth’s exposure to the sugar further enhance the risk of dental plaque and early dental caries.

You can prevent early childhood caries if you:

Avoid ad libitum breastfeeding

What seems to increase the risk of early dental caries in breastfed children is prolonged and nocturnal breastfeeding, especially after the child’s first birthday. Therefore, avoid ad libitum breastfeeding after the first baby tooth begins to erupt and after you have introduced to the child other dietary carbohydrates.

Care for your child’s mouth

It’s important to begin wiping your infant’s gums soon after birth. Clean the baby’s gums every day with a clean washcloth or moist gauze pad. As soon as the first primary tooth emerges, brush it twice daily. And don’t forget to take your child to a family dentist before his/her first birthday.

Frequent and prolonged contact with human milk can soften the outer part of the teeth. These conditions expose exclusively breastfed children to nursing caries. Fortunately, controlled breastfeeding and good dental hygiene can help reduce the risk of dental problems. Take these precautions to protect your baby from early childhood caries.