An oral health guide for newborns and new parents1,2
Studies suggest that breastfeeding can be beneficial to a newborn’s oral and overall health. It’s just as important for parents to keep an eye on their own oral health. Here are a few tips to help parents and babies enjoy healthy smiles.
Breastfeeding may help with teeth alignment.
When possible, breastfeeding is the recommended choice for most babies’ overall health, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not only does it provide all the nutrients infants require, but it also reduces several health risks for babies.
When it comes to oral health, studies have shown that babies who are breastfed for at least their first six months are less likely to develop teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites and overbites than those who were breastfed for a shorter period or not at all.3 However, breastfeeding is not a guarantee that your child will not need braces someday, as other factors are also involved. Your dentist can check your child’s bite to see if alignment issues are developing.
Breastfeeding can help decrease the risk of baby bottle tooth decay.4
Baby bottle tooth decay happens when babies’ teeth are exposed to drinks that contain sugar. This kind of tooth decay can occur because a baby is put to bed with a bottle containing formula, milk or fruit juice.
While breast milk also contains sugar and breastfed babies can get cavities, breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of this kind of tooth decay.
Before teeth first appear, wipe the child’s gums with a clean, moist cloth after each feeding.5 Once baby teeth appear, help stop cavities by brushing your baby’s teeth with water.6
Taking care of parents' oral health7
Of course, most new parents are busy and often sleep deprived, whether the mother is breastfeeding or not. Exhaustion combined with a busy schedule can cause parents to neglect their own oral health. New parents should continue to brush twice a day, floss every day, stay hydrated and schedule regular dental checkups. By continuing to take good care of their oral health, parents can help ward off gum disease and cavities.
Not only is oral health important to parents, but if tooth decay or cavities are present, bacteria could be transferred to the baby’s mouth simply by sharing a spoon. Parents should avoid sharing spoons, straws or other utensils with babies or using their mouths to clean pacifiers.8