It’s good to know about taking care of teeth, even when your baby is an infant. Here are two common concerns about babies, breastfeeding and teeth.
1. Do infants bite?
The gums clamping down on your nipple can feel like a bite. However, teeth aren’t ever a part of breastfeeding. Pinching and pain is more likely to be a poor latch. It could also be due to an earache or something else.
If breastfeeding hurts, get help to figure out the cause. Sometimes a simple position change can make a difference. Sometimes that biting feeling is a symptom of a tongue-tie.
Having a ‘tie’ means the tongue doesn’t move well. That can make latching difficult and painful. It’s also important that the tongue move well to easily wipe food particles away from the gums. If the tongue can’t move well, food can get stuck up in the gums and develop plaque that leads to cavities.
If it’s needed, a tongue-tie release (a.k.a frenotomy) can make feeding more comfortable for the mother, more efficient for the baby and is good for dental health.
2. Does breastfeeding cause babies to have cavities? If your baby is breastfeeding at night, that’s okay. Babies suck and swallow as needed while feeding. A sippy cup or bottle with the baby at night means fluid is dripping and pooling up in the mouth. That is bathing the teeth and gums with sugary liquid.
More significantly, the sugars in breast milk are very different from the processed sugars in formula and juices. Human Breast milk contains immune factors:* immunoglobulin A (IgA) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG). These two factors inhibit the growth of Strep. Mutans. The processed sugars in formula and juices do not inhibit this.
Some people have more Strep Mutans than others and are more susceptible to teeth decay. No matter what, even with breast milk, it’s still important to clean the teeth.
Several studies have been done reviewing breastfeeding and cavities. It’s important to note that in many of these studies, the babies and toddlers were also eating other foods, not only breastfeeding. The late Brian Palmer, DDS. reviewed skulls and teeth from prehistoric times to contemporary times. He noted that teeth decay is a relatively recent problem. If breastfeeding caused cavities, it would be evident in the skulls. * One important factor that has changed is more processed sugar in diets.
Your genetics, habits and diet all have a part in your health. The most certain way to not get cavities is to avoid processed sugars and clean the teeth twice daily.
When the first teeth come in, make a pleasant habit of cleaning their teeth. If you have dental insurance, set up an appointment even for the first teeth. Those usually emerge around six months. The “baby teeth” are the roots, in a sense, for the next set.
• Breastfeeding should always be comfortable. If it feels like pinching or biting, you can get some advice and some help from an IBCLC.
• You can breastfeed during the day and night, that’s fine.
• The two simple practices to avoid cavities are
Avoid sugary foods and Brush the teeth twice daily.
That, along with breastfeeding, are of great benefit to your child’s overall health.
Preventing Dental Caries in Breastfeeding Toddlers: ELACTA conference May 2020.
Dr. Gina Weissman, DMD, RN, IBCLC FABM
*Brian Palmer, DDS
You can find the link to the Infant Caries Presentation on this site.