Does breastfeeding lead to tooth decay?

breastfeeding tooth decayDoes breastfeeding lead to tooth decay? Blaming prolonged breastfeeding or breastfeeding to sleep for tooth decay is very common but what you may be surprised to learn is that the belief that breastfeeding to sleep causes dental caries is based on a handful of articles from the late 1970s.

Current research strongly opposes the idea that breastfeeding has anything to do with tooth decay. In fact, it suggests that breastfeeding may actually protect against tooth decay, while forumula or artificial milk may play a role in its development. Antibodies in breastmilk help stop bacterial growth (including Steptococcus mutans, which is the bacterium that causes tooth decay). Lactoferrin, a protein in breastmilk, actually kills S. mutans.

Breastfeeding is different to bottle-feeding
There is a vast difference between sucking on a bottle and sucking on the breast.  When a baby falls asleep with a bottle, the teat will continue to leak any remaining bottle contents slowly into the baby’s mouth, while the breast will not give milk unless it’s actively sucked.

Did our ancestors suffer tooth decay?
Archaeological studies of the teeth of children in prehistoric times show that very little decay existed, even though it can be assumed that those who survived babyhood would have been breastfed for very long periods and probably would have slept with their mothers and breastfed during the night.

Factors other than how a baby feeds, including sugar intake, family genetics, hygiene and strep entering a baby’s mouth  may also impact the development of tooth decay.

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