4 Facts About Breast feeding And Tooth Decay Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, November 2019

Breastfeeding and tooth decay

Breastfeeding is one of the first decisions a mother makes for her baby. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria thereby protecting the baby from various infections and allergies. It also reduces the risk of nursing moms developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. But did you know breastfeeding can have an impact on your child’s dental health? Here’s how:


Breastfeeding compared to bottle feeding promotes normal growth of the jaws. Many researchers have proved that breastfeeding reduces teeth alignment issues like openbites, crossbites and overbites. This in turn helps to reduce SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), sleep apnea, need for braces etc.


Prolonged breastfeeding and night feeding after the teeth erupt are associated with an increased risk of cavities in children. Some researchers also state that there is no conclusive evidence that a longer duration of breastfeeding increases the risk of cavities. Cavities are mainly caused due to pooling of milk in the baby’s mouth. Infants who are exclusively breastfed i.e. no weaning with any formula milk or sweet foods are not prone to decay.


Decay causing bacteria like Streptococcus mutans cause cavities. It is often transmitted to the baby via kissing or sharing of spoons from parents. Everyone has different types and numbers of these bacteria in their mouth. Hence some people who are blessed with lesser amounts of Streptococcus mutans in their mouth might still be able to eat a lot of sugary food and still not get cavities.


Breastfeeding stand alone does not cause cavities. Thus the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding till the first year of a baby’s life. But when breastfeeding and sugary foods or drinks are combined i.e. during the weaning phase, there is an increased risk of cavity development. Bits of sugar from food, juices or formula milk remain in the mouth due to lack of proper brushing and rinsing of the mouth. When these children are breastfed, this sugar mixes with breast milk increasing the risk of tooth decay.


Oral care should start right from infancy. Clean the gum pads with a washcloth dipped in warm water.

Always brush your teeth twice a day especially before bedtime. No food or milk should be given after brushing. If mid night feeds continue after teeth have erupted, then make sure to clean the teeth after the feed.

It’s best to make your child rinse their mouth or sip water after every meal to avoid any sticking of food particles.

Start fluoride varnish applications by the age of 2yrs to prevent cavities.

Breastfeeding is too important to abandon. Although breastfed children can get cavities, breast milk stand alone per se does not cause cavities but sugary drinks and foods consumed while breastfeeding is still going on tends to be the main problem. Also babies who sleep with a bottle of milk or take a sippy cup of milk throughout the day or night also have an increased incidence of caries. Looking at the current researches and clinical experience, we have noticed breastfeeding till at age 2 or older increases the child’s risk acquiring tooth decay.

“Breastfeeding is not a choice but feed responsibly!”

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Keywords : breastfeeding and tooth decay, prolonged breastfeeding, night time breastfeeding, Streptococcus mutans