Breastfeeding increases the risk of dental caries in children if continued for two years or more, a new study has found.
The study, published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Peres et al, 2017), analysed the impact of sugar in the diet of children and found that breastfeeding after two years old can be associated with severe early childhood caries, no matter what the sugar consumption was like.
Despite this, due to the known benefits of breastfeeding, the authors stopped short of discouraging breastfeeding, instead encouraging parents to adopt routines to prevent dental caries as soon as possible.
‘BSPD supports breastfeeding but at the same time must keep up to date with the emerging evidence base in infant feeding so that we can give sound advice,’ Claire Stevens, British Society of Paediatric Dentistry’s (BSPD’s) vice president and media spokeswoman, said.
‘Parents striving to do their best for their child should be allowed to feed their babies and toddlers as they wish but our advice is that, where possible, from the age of one, mothers who choose to breastfeed their child should aim to do so at mealtimes, rather than on demand, and avoid feeding through the night.
‘It is also vital that preventive measures are in place, such as ensuring that the child’s teeth are brushed twice daily as soon as they come through with a flat smear of fluoride toothpaste and that a first dental check up takes place before the child’s first birthday.’
The study involved more than 1,000 children in southern Brazil, where children between three months and five years were seen several times.
Breastfeeding information was collected until the children reached two, and sugar consumption data was collected when the children reached two, four and five years old.
The study found that children who were breastfeeding for more than two years had a higher number of decayed, missing or filled teeth and were at a higher risk of severe early childhood caries.
‘Breastfeeding is the unquestioned optimal source of infant nutrition,’ Professor Karen Glazer Peres of the University of Adelaide, who led the research in Brazil, said.
‘Dental care providers should encourage mothers to breastfeed and, likewise, advise them on the risks.’
Peres KG, Nascimento GG, Peres MA, Mittinty MN, Demarco FF, Santos IS, Matijasevich A and Barros A (2017) Impact of Prolonged Breastfeeding on Dental Caries: A Population-Based Birth Cohort Study. Pediatrics. 140(1): e20162943