It’s no secret that breastmilk is fantastic for your baby’s health…and for your wallet. But does prolonged breastfeeding increase your child’s risk for developing cavities? Yes. And no. Let me explain.
Many research studies have been done to try to get to the bottom of this question, a task that has been very difficult due to the amount of external uncontrollable factors in such a study. I mean, think of all the other foods that children are consuming. Now add to that the variation in frequency of feeding, different brushing habits, and a seemingly endless list of variable factors, and you’ve got a real puzzle on your hands.
But the research appears to be coming together, and we’ve got an answer for you. In order for cavities to form, 4 things need to be present:
Understanding this list is the key to understanding the role that breastmilk plays in the development of cavities. It is known that breastmilk contains a significant amount of sugar, in the form of lactose. However, it is important to note that the presence of sugar alone cannot cause cavities. In fact, it is the bacteria that are already present in the mouth that do the real damage. These bacteria specialize in fermenting the sugar that gets trapped in our mouth. Once fermented, the product becomes very acidic. If given enough time, that acid slowly eats away our tooth structure, causing cavities.
So yes, breastmilk contains sugar, which contributes to the formation of cavities. But if you aren’t breastfeeding, your kids will get the same sugar from other nutritional sources, right? Not exactly. You see, recent studies have found that the lactose sugar found in breastmilk, when combined with sucrose sugar found in snacks and drinks we give our kids, creates a synergistic effect. In other words, lactose sugar is bad for your teeth. So is sucrose sugar. When you combine the two sugars, the risk for developing cavities increases exponentially. Not only that, they will also develop in only 3 weeks.
What’s the best course of action then? Should you give up the health benefits of breastfeeding early, to avoid combining these tricky little sugars, or should you risk your child’s oral health and keep the breast milk flowing? While we can’t make that decision for you, we can give you a few tips:
- Keep your child’s mouth CLEAN – Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, there are sugars getting stuck all up in their oral cavity. Make sure that you are brushing, flossing, and rinsing your child’s teeth as much as possible.
- Do not feed your child late at night – Late night feedings provide for one of the four elements of cavities. TIME. Make sure to be brushing their teeth at night, and do not let them eat anything after bedtime brushing.
- Water fixes everything – As you’ve probably noticed, all of our tips have to do with keeping the mouth clean. Water does an amazing job at this. The sooner you get the sugar out of their mouth, the easier it is to remove, and the less TIME it has to cause problems.
- Avoid sugar when possible – Now I don’t want to be a life-ruining anti-sugar Nazi, but I will say that the less sugar you consume, the better off your teeth will be. If you’re like me and you must consume some sugar, just be sure to clear it out of there when you’re finished.
The bottom line is, whether or not you are breastfeeding, your child is at risk for cavities. The trick is to avoid providing the necessary ingredients for cavity formation: Sugar, Bacteria, and Time.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me:
Jake The Dentist; firstname.lastname@example.org