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Breastfeeding and Dental Development

Breastfeeding has multiple benefits for a nursing mother and her infant. This fact is well-documented through studies and experience. Infants up to six months old benefit more from breast milk than any other food, and the advantages continue if the breastfeeding period is extended. But it’s not just the milk that produces benefits. The act of breastfeeding adds to the bond between infant and mother. And from the dental health perspective, nursing has a positive impact on an infant’s teeth and palate.

A nursing baby uses its facial muscles and tongue in a rolling motion that requires an instinctive level of coordination. When breastfeeding, an infant uses as much as 60 times more energy to get food as compared to drinking from a bottle. Nursing helps to develop the baby’s facial muscles and jawbone for the later work of chewing, eating, and speaking. It even encourages teeth to grow in proper alignment. As a result, the likelihood of needing orthodontic assistance when they get older, like braces or alignment trays, is significantly reduced. With a bottle, however, the infant merely learns a squeezing action to release the liquid. Therefore, a bottle-fed baby may be fine nutritionally, but from the dental perspective the benefits are diminished.

When to Stop Breastfeeding

Many mothers believe that emerging teeth are a sign that it’s time to wean the infant from nursing. Every child has different circumstances, however, and develops at a different pace. Therefore, it’s important for the parents to discuss the issue with the child’s pediatrician, to determine the best time to wean the child.

While all this seems simple and logical, we lead busy lives. At times a bottle is the most convenient and efficient choice. (Although the recent issues with purchasing baby formula add additional benefits to breastfeeding.) Nevertheless, whenever it is possible, breastfeeding is best for the child, as well as the mother

If you are pregnant or nursing, let us know. That way, any prescriptions we make or drugs we use for dental procedures will always be safe for you and your child. And when your child is ready for their first appointment with us, we will make sure their teeth stay clean and healthy. Let’s work as a team to make sure your child develops the best smile they can! Give us a call or schedule an appointment online for more information.

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