How Does Breastfeeding Affect Baby’s Teeth?

Becoming a new parent is one of the happiest and scariest things you may ever do. There’s so much to learn, and so much to marvel at – sometimes it’s overwhelming. Diverse cultures have different ways of raising babies and place different values on milestones. But what all babies and all cultures have in common are the very basics in health care. An important part of any new baby’s health care that many new parents get wrong is their baby’s oral health. After all, if baby has no teeth, is there really anything to be concerned about? In a word, yes. Whether you’re a new parent, new grandparent or just curious about infant oral health care, check out these tips to ensure a life of healthy teeth for your baby.

Gums Need Brushing, Too!

A common misconception among new parents is that just because baby doesn’t have any teeth, he or she doesn’t need his or her mouth cleaned. This isn’t true for several reasons. Cleaning a baby’s mouth should be relatively easy. There are several ways to do it. There are products sold specifically to clean infant mouths, such as pre-moistened dental wipes that either fit over the finger or can be folded to a shape that is convenient for the parent. These wipes can be used to swab your baby’s gums, tongue and cheeks after each feeding, especially after the last feeding of the night.

Another method you can try is simply rubbing baby’s gums with a fluoride-free toothpaste. It is important to not use fluoridated oral health products on your child until he or she is old enough to spit the product out. Fluoride is not dangerous, but we certainly don’t want your child swallowing it, either.

Finger or cloth brushing has dual benefits. Not only does it clean the mouth, but it also gets your child used to the feeling of having his or her teeth brushed, which will be very helpful when it comes time to brush actual teeth – and to visit the dentist!

Even Babies Need to Visit the Dentist!

Don’t think that just because your baby has only one or two teeth he or she doesn’t need to see the dentist. You should start bringing your baby to the dentist by his or her first birthday, regardless if teeth have erupted. This will get your baby comfortable with the dentist and dental exam and give you some peace of mind that all your child’s teeth are developing properly. If Dr. George spots any trouble areas, they can also be corrected before they become a big problem later.

Don’t Share Cups and Spoons!

You may already do this without even thinking about it. You make baby some oatmeal and taste a bit to make sure it’s not too hot. Then you put more on the spoon and feed it to the baby. No big deal, right? Wrong!

Believe it or not, the bad bacteria in our mouths – the bacteria responsible for everything from cavities to gum disease – can be transmitted by sharing a cup or spoon. So, when you, as an adult, put that spoon into your mouth and then into your baby’s mouth, you are transmitting a whole bunch of bacteria your baby may never have been exposed to otherwise, setting him or her up for a lifetime of cavities.

If you must test your baby’s food, get a clean spoon, and don’t double dip. Same goes for cups. If your baby or toddler wants to try a little of your drink, get him or her their own cup – and never, ever share toothbrushes!

Is Breast(feeding) Really Best?

You’ve probably heard the debate “breast is best” versus “fed is best.” The truth is, it’s a very personal decision that should be between you, your baby and possibly your partner and pediatrician. We all have different reasons for how we choose to feed our babies. The most important thing to remember is that feeding your baby is the ultimate goal. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for your choices.

When it comes to brushing baby’s teeth, it doesn’t matter which method you use to feed your child. Both require you to brush and care for baby’s teeth and gums. A recent study shows children who breastfeed beyond 24 months have a higher risk of developing cavities, but there are too many variables missing from the study to know for sure how much of a role the breast milk itself plays in the formation of cavities. Plenty of babies breastfeed beyond 24 months and have no cavities. It’s really all about how you care for your baby’s teeth when he or she is not eating.

If you have any further questions or concerns about infant oral health care, please give Dr. George a call at 724-934-3422.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on March 30th, 2018