The Natural Advantage
Breastfeeding is a pretty convenient way to nourish your precious tot. After all, breast milk is packed with all the nutrients your infant needs, including some components not contained in formula, and there’s no need for fiddly preparation or sterilising procedures.
As well as helping to combat infections, reducing the likelihood of developing certain conditions, such as asthma and allergies, and lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in nursing mums, breastfeeding can also be best for you and your baby’s dental health.
Here’s why breast feeding is great for developing teeth:
- Babies who are fed on breast milk alone for around six months are much less likely to develop a badly aligned ‘bite’ or crooked teeth. The action of breast feeding can help encourage normal palate formation, optimal teeth alignment and the correct movement of the tongue when swallowing. When breast feeding, your baby also uses the jaw muscles more actively than when feeding from a bottle, producing good muscle tone.
- Breast feeding is a much better way to help avoid tooth decay than bottle feeding. But beware – breast milk still has the potential to cause cavities as it contains natural sugar, so keep those titchy teeth clean by wiping with soft gauze or use a baby toothbrush with a speck of toothpaste. Clean your baby’s teeth and gums after the last feed in the evening so there is less chance of decay developing while they sleep.
A biting chance
There’s no need to stop breast feeding when your baby starts to develop tiny gnashers. If you do want to carry on past the recommended six months, don’t think it’s all over when you spot those miniscule pearly whites. And don’t worry too much about being nibbled because your baby’s tongue covers any new teeth as they feed. It could be an issue when your baby has had its fill and pulls away, but you can prevent this by breaking the seal with your finger when sucking stops or, if they do take a bite, you can firmly say ‘no’ and promptly remove your little nipper.
Top tips for tiny teeth
- Stimulate healthy gums and encourage good oral hygiene by giving little gums a wipe with a piece of gauze or damp cloth, even before you spot any new teeth peeping through.
- After teeth have emerged (usually the first one pops through at around six months), continue to wipe with gauze and when you start brushing, use a tiny amount of toothpaste (with fluoride) and a soft bristled brush for daily cleaning.
- If you do bottle feed, don’t leave your baby alone with a bottle when they are put to bed as their teeth will be bathed in sugar for prolonged periods and be susceptible to decay.
- Between four and six months you will probably introduce soft foods such as baby rice, and then pureed fruit and veg into your baby’s diet, and it will become even more important to keep teeth spick and span.
- Bring your little one to see us as soon as possible, we’d love to see them! We can keep an eye on their dental health and they can get used to coming to see us – setting them up for a lifetime of dental health.
Also, mums, don’t forget your toothbrush when breastfeeding – nursing a baby can be pretty full-on, which means you may neglect your own oral hygiene – so make sure you try to fit in regular brushing and flossing. And stay hydrated to avoid a dry mouth and increased risk of cavities and gum disease. If you do need dental treatment while you are breastfeeding your baby, please let us know, as we will need to give you medication that’s OK for your little one too.
If you have any questions about the dental implications of breast feeding or you want to book an appointment for your little cutie, call us on 01582 763420.
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