It’s an age old question, to breast feed or not to breast feed? However, now there may be even more evidence showing why breastfeeding may be the best choice not just for your child’s physical health, but future dental health as well. A new study suggests that babies who are breastfed are much less likely to develop any sort of misalignment in their teeth later on in life. Although the study also shows that using a pacifier while breastfeeding will negate some of the positive oral health effects.
The researchers, led by Karen Peres at the University of Adelaide in Australia, tracked just over 1,300 children for five years, including how much they breast-fed at 3 months, 1 year and 2 years old. The study authors also asked how often the children used a pacifier, if at all, when the kids were 3 months, 1 year, 2 and 4. About 40 percent of the children used a pacifier daily for four years.
When the children were 5, the researchers determined which of them had various types of misaligned teeth or jaw conditions, including open bite, crossbite, overbite or a moderate to severe misalignment.
The risk of overbite was one-third lower for those who exclusively breast-fed for three to six months compared to those who didn’t, the findings showed. If they breast-fed at least six months or more, the risk of overbite dropped by 44 percent.
Similarly, children who exclusively breast-fed for three months to six months were 41 percent less likely to have moderate to severe misalignment of the teeth. Breast-feeding six months or longer reduced their risk by 72 percent. The findings were published online June 15 in the Journal for Pediatrics.
Open bite, overbite and moderate to severe misalignment were generally less common overall among the children who mostly or exclusively breast-fed. The study also found that children who mostly breast-fed but also used pacifiers, were slightly more likely to have one of these misalignment issues. However, that does not mean parents need to toss the pacifiers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents consider using a pacifier for an infant’s first six months because pacifiers are associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Instead, parents should simply limit pacifier use, and since pacifiers are not needed past the first six to 12 months, parents can begin weaning after that timeframe.