Study Says Long-Term Breastfeeding Leads To More Cavities

July 1, 2017
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Children who are breastfed for 2 years or longer are higher at risk to have dental cavities, according to a study published Friday in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers looked at breastfeeding behaviors and sugar consumption for 1,129 children in Pelotas, Brazil. At 5 years, the children visited a dentist, and were examined for decayed, missing and filled primary tooth surfaces and severe early childhood caries, or severe cavities. Severe early childhood caries were defined as 6 or more decayed, missing and filled primary tooth surfaces.

23.9% of the children had severe cavities and 48% had at least one tooth surface affected by a cavity. Kids who were breastfed for 2 years or longer had a 2.4 times higher risk of having severe cavities, compared to kids who were breastfed for less than a year.

“There are some reasons to explain such an association,” said Dr. Karen Peres, lead author of the study and associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “First, children who are exposed to breast-feeding beyond 24 months are usually those breastfed on demand and at night. Second, higher frequency of breastfeeding and nocturnal breastfeeding on demand makes it very difficult to clean teeth in this specific period.”

However, the study found that breastfeeding between 12 and 23 months did not increase the risk of cavities. About a quarter of the kids were breastfed for 24 months or longer.

On the other hand, Breastfeeding has been found to have certain dental benefits for children under 2. Another study found that babies are 72% less likely to have crooked teeth if they are breastfed exclusively for six months.

Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of a condition called baby bottle tooth decay, which is most often associated with babies’ teeth being exposed to sugary drinks for an extended period of time. This can occur when babies are put to bed with a bottle, or a bottle is used as a pacifier.

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