Oral Health and Breastfeeding

May 04, 2018

Oral Health and Breastfeeding

Many women choose to breastfeed because of the various, natural benefits that breastfeeding provides. With this decision to breastfeed, comes another decision to take care of their own health since it will directly affect the health of their new baby. When it comes to oral health and breastfeeding, there are a few things that new mothers will want to take into account.

One of the first things new mothers will want to consider is that oral health begins even before breastfeeding. During pregnancy, certain hormonal changes can cause dental changes as well. For example, pregnant women are more at risk for dental diseases, such as periodontitis. This can cause premature birth and low birth weight. Because of this, it is important for expectant mothers to make dental checkups a regular part of their prenatal care.

Once the baby has arrived and the mother is nursing, there are other things she will need to take into consideration. While breastfeeding, she will need to make sure to eat more calories, limit caffeine, eat more protein, and drink enough fluids. Even while breastfeeding, mothers are at a higher risk for dental problems. Because of this, they should limit their sugar intake and make sure to brush and floss as usual.

The mother will also need to worry about the baby’s oral health as well. Although breastmilk is a naturally-occurring substance, there is still the possibility of it causing cavities. Some would also argue that it can be linked to tooth decay, however there is not enough clear evidence to currently support this assertion. Nevertheless, it is imperative to prioritize baby’s oral health while breastfeeding.

Many people believe that baby bottles can also cause tooth decay. This phenomenon is known as “baby bottle mouth” and refers to bottles given at night. It is believed that when babies fall asleep with bottles, the milk pools in their mouth. It is this pooling of liquid that can ultimately lead to tooth decay. This same effect does not happen with breastfeeding, however, since babies have to be actively sucking to obtain milk.

Furthermore, tooth decay does not simply happen as a result of too much milk. It is the combination of stagnant milk and bacteria that contribute to the overall problem. Thus, the mother must also take special care to ensure that bacteria do not spread to the baby. To accomplish this, she will need to avoid any saliva to saliva contact such as sharing spoons, wet kisses, chewing the food for baby, or putting the baby’s pacifier in her mouth.

In addition, she will want to clean the baby’s gums after feedings and before bedtime to ensure that any possible bacteria is removed before it has the chance to reproduce. To clean baby’s gums, simply wet a gauze square or soft washcloth with warm water and gently rub over the gum’s surface. If the baby is resistant, sometimes singing or providing some other kind of distraction can be beneficial.

Taking care of both the mother’s and child’s oral health is essential while breastfeeding. Both must be in good health to ensure that the baby receives the maximum amount of benefits from this natural process.

April Toyer, DDS, FAAPD

April Toyer, DDS, FAAPD

The team at Lifetime Dental Care brings a full range of services to patients in and around the Woodbridge, VA area. These four doctors bring a range of experience, diverse backgrounds, and professional knowledge together to provide families with a safe and friendly home for their oral health needs.