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Breastfeeding Has Dental Health Benefits For Babies

Dorathy Gass

We all know the health benefits for breast-fed babies; a new study coming out of Australia reveals that the act of breastfeeding can also help deter dental misalignment later on in life as well. While this is great news, the research team also noted that pacifiers could potentially squash the dental benefit, if a child uses them for a prolonged period of time.

Led by Karen Peres at the University of Adelaide, the research team reviewed approximately 1,300 children over the span of five years. They took a closer look at how much the babies breastfed at three months, one and two years old. The team also reviewed pacifier use over this time, however, extended the review period on this aspect of the study to four years of age. While some babies did not take the pacifier, approximately 40% in the study did, and used it until they were four years old.

At five years of age, the team reviewed children in the study for types of jaw conditions or misaligned teeth, analyzing moderate to severe dental malocclusion, including overbite, cross bite, or open bite.
The results of the study revealed that those children who were exclusively breastfed from three to six months, versus those who weren’t, decreased their risk of overbite by one-third. In fact, the chances of overbite were further reduced by 44% for those babies who were breastfed for six month or more.

Along the same the page, reports that those babies who were exclusively breastfed for three to six months also decreased their chances of having moderate to severe dental misalignment by 41%. Babies that were breastfed for six months or more decreased their chances by 72%.

Overall, open bite, overbite and moderate to severe dental malocclusions were not an issue when it came to those babies who mostly breastfed, or were exclusive to breastfeeding. However, the study found that those breast-fed babies who also used pacifiers potentially increase their chances of dental misalignment problems in the future.
While this may be worrisome to parents, tempted to toss out their infant’s pacifier, experts don’t necessarily encourage this. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier the first six months of a child’s life, as it decreases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is advised to limit the use of a pacifier for sleeping, and then removing it between the ages of six to 12 months of age.

Published on June 15th in the journal of Pediatrics online, the study was not able to find a cause and effect connection between breastfeeding and misalignment. However, study lead Peres notes that unlike bottle-fed babies, breastfeeding requires young ones to move their tongue and jaw in such a motion that helps create the foundation for proper dental alignment.

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