Breastfeeding effects on teeth

Breast-feeding may promote properly aligned teeth, an Australian study suggests.

Open bite, overbite and moderate to several misalignment were less prevalent among children who were predominantly or exclusively breast-fed, researchers found. But the use of pacifiers "modified these associations," they reported in the July Pediatrics journal.

The research team tracked some 1,300 children for five years, recording the type of breast-feeding at birth and at 3, 12 and 24 months of age and assessed various types of malocclusion at age 5.

"Our findings reinforce the World Health Organization message, which strongly recommends exclusive breast-feeding up to six months, both in low-middle and high-income countries," researchers said in the oral health study, Exclusive Breast-feeding and Risk of Dental Malocclusion.

The authors drew a distinction between exclusive and predominant breast-feeding, the former defined as the provision of breast milk without the introduction of any other foods or drinks to the child and the latter as breast milk the main but not exclusive source of nutrients. Other studies have highlighted the fact that the protective effect on malocclusion depends on the duration and cessation of breast-feeding. But theirs is the first to investigate the influence of exclusive breast-feeding on malocclusion, the authors said.

What this study adds is that exclusive breast-feeding reduces the risk of malocclusions regardless of pacifier user, whereas the effect of predominant breast-feeding depends on the duration of the pacifier use, the Pediatrics journal said.

For more information on pacifiers visit the American Dental Association's consumer website MouthHealthy.org.

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