From taking care of the nutritional requirements of the baby to the health of the mother, breastfeeding is indeed laden with immense health benefits both for the mother as well as the baby. However, breastfeeding the baby for an extended period of time may affect your child's dental health. As per some research, extended breastfeeding can trigger Early childhood Carries or ECC (also termed as baby bottle tooth decay) in some babies. The ECC is mainly a bacterial infection triggered by Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus. As a result, the affected child may develop a host of dental problems including tooth decay. Left attended for long the problem will aggravate, worsening the condition further.
Fluids such as milk, fruit juices are considered healthy for a child. However, these fluids contain generous amounts of sugar (bottle, as well as breast milk, contains lactose) in them. In kids with a poor dental hygiene, the bacteria (S. mutans and Lactobacillus) converts the sugar into acids which eventually gives rise to tooth decay, cavities formation and a host of related problems. Kids are more prone to the tooth decay as their teeth are still developing and are thus not strong enough.
It would be wrong to say that breastfeeding alone triggers the tooth decay. In fact, as per a scientific report, breast milk contains Lactoferrin. This protein comes with a bactericidal property and plays a pivotal role in getting rid of S. mutans (the bacteria responsible for the tooth decay and cavity formation), a fact that makes breast milk so vital for the baby.
Though extended breastfeeding may give rise to tooth decay in some kids, it would be wrong to generalize the situation. There could be a host of other triggers or underlying factors that give rise to the dental problem. Many times, it is the other food supplements given to the baby (such as solid foods, formula milk served in bottles, fruit juice or pureed fruits and vegetables) amalgamated with the poor dental hygiene that triggers the tooth decay.
Breastfeeding is essential and should, by all means, be encouraged. However, to ensure your child enjoys a good dental health
Practice good dental hygiene. Remember to wipe your baby's teeth and gums with a clean and soft cloth after every feed.
In the case of a feeding bottle, one needs to be extra careful. You will often see babies sleep sucking the nipples of the feeding bottle, a practice that can cost the baby dearly. Before you put your baby to sleep, make sure to take the bottle off from their mouth followed by cleaning the teeth.
The bottle should also be cleaned and sterilized thoroughly to remove every drop of milk or juice from it.
Once your child turns a year old, make sure to visit the dentist twice a year without fail.
Watch out for the possible signs of tooth decay and dental problems (such as bleeding gums, bad breath, an appearance of lines or white spots on the teeth, dark teeth, to name a few).