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The Dental Benefits of Breastfeeding

The Dental Benefits of Breastfeeding

The links between breastfeeding and better dental health have been known for a while, but a June 2015 study highlights just how strong those links are. Conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide and published online at Pediatrics, the study found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months were 72% less likely to develop misalignment in their teeth than babies who were breastfed for less than six months or not at all.

The research is important because it highlights the difference in results between babies who are exclusively breastfed versus those who are mostly breastfed. This is pertinent given the large number of breastfed babies who are also fed from the bottle.

The Study

The Australian study tracked more than 1,300 children over a five-year period, recording how much they breastfed at ages 3 months, 1 year and 2 years. It also recorded whether and how often the children used a pacifier at ages 3 months, 1 year, 2 years and 4 years. At age 5, the children were checked for various types of misaligned teeth and jaw conditions such as overbite, cross bite, open bite, and moderate-to-severe misalignment.

What the researchers found was that:

  • Children who were exclusively breastfed for 3 to 6 months (compared to those who didn’t) had a one-third lower risk of overbite
  • The risk of overbite dropped by 44 per cent in children breastfed for six months or more
  • Children breastfed exclusively for 3 to 6 months were 41 per cent less likely to have moderate-to-severe misalignment
  • Being breastfed for six months or more reduced this risk by 72 per cent.

Possible Explanations

While the study did not prove a direct cause-and-effect link between breastfeeding and better oral health, head researcher Karen Peres has offered some possible explanations. These include that breastfed babies are less likely to use pacifiers, and that the act of breastfeeding encourages the baby to exercise its jaw and tongue in ways that help develop the oral cavity. This assists in creating a good foundation for proper tooth alignment long before the baby’s teeth break the gums.

East Bentleigh Dental Group offers the highest standards in children’s dental care. To find out how we can help your little ones achieve optimum oral health, contact us today.

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