The overall health benefits of breastfeeding are well known. Breastfeeding can help a baby’s body fight infections and reduce health risks such as asthma, ear infections, SIDS and obesity in children. It may also help nursing moms lower their chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
But studies are showing that breastfeeding may also positively affect the dental health of both baby and mom.
Breastfeeding may help a child develop a better bite. A study from Pediatrics found that babies exclusively breastfed for six months were 72 percent less likely to have crooked teeth (malocclusion), and less likely to develop open bites, crossbites and overbites than babies who breastfed for less than six months or not at all.
Breastfeeding may lower baby’s risk of tooth decay. Frequent, prolonged bottle feeding with sugar-containing liquids like formula, milk or fruit juice can cause “baby bottle tooth decay,” especially in the upper front teeth. Exclusive breastfeeding appears to lower the risk of baby bottle tooth decay, but breast milk also contains sugar. So beginning a few days after birth, moms should begin wiping baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad every day, whether they are breast or bottle feeding.
It’s okay to breastfeed even after your baby starts teething. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year of a baby’s life; the World Health Organization encourages moms to go for two. Every child and mother is different, so do what is best for both of you.
Check your medications while you are pregnant or breast feeding. It is very important to continue seeing your dentist during pregnancy and while you are nursing. If you are facing a dental procedure that requires medication, be sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant or breast feeding. There are medications, such as antibiotics, that you can take without harming your baby.
Continue your oral care for baby’s benefit too. It’s not hard to understand that new mothers may have less time and energy for their own dental care. Not brushing or flossing as often can lead to more gum disease and cavities. Unfortunately, even simple things like sharing a spoon with your child can transfer bacteria into your baby’s mouth.
Drink plenty of water. While good advice in general, staying hydrated when you are breast feeding is especially important to prevent dry mouth, which puts you at greater risk for gum disease and cavities.
Dr. Douglas Angell and the staff at Angell’s Dentistry are committed to your family’s oral health. Give us a call to schedule an appointment for a dental checkup and be sure to visit our website at: www.angellsdentistry.com