Cleaning Breastfed Baby’s New Teeth

Breastfed baby and good dental health means having their new teeth gently wiped with soft cloth after feedings

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Breastfeeding is a great way to give babies a healthy future. Recently, the dental community has debated about how to keep breastfed babies' teeth healthy. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk for the first six months of life. After that, appropriate foods can be introduced. Continued breastfeeding is encouraged until the baby reaches a year or for however long the mother and baby want to. 

"Wipe your baby's new teeth with a soft washcloth after feedings"

The American Dental Association does not have a formal policy on breastfeeding but does encourage it. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry released a policy statement that "on-demand" breastfeeding be avoided after the first tooth comes in or when food is introduced. Instead, mothers are encouraged to have scheduled feedings and gently wipe the baby's teeth after. 

The policy's intention was to prevent early childhood caries, a condition commonly referred to as "baby bottle tooth decay."

A recent study found that breastfed children did not have an increased risk of early childhood caries. Researchers also found that breastfed children had better overall health outcomes than formula-fed children.

Lindsey Salone, DDS, of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a review of published studies on dental health outcomes of breastfed versus formula-fed children. Researchers were also interested in overall health outcomes of the two groups.

Researchers found that compared to formula-fed children, breastfed children had a lower risk of acute otitis media (ear infections), asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity and other medical conditions. Breastfeeding also seemed to improve the mother's health, with a less risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. 

Breastfed children also appeared to have a better set of structured teeth, which could mean less orthodontic work. Researchers commented that this finding was likely due to the differences in sucking on a bottle versus a human nipple. 

Researchers found that breast feeding did not put the child at an increased risk of having early childhood caries. Study authors noted that research suggesting an association with breastfeeding and early childhood caries was lacking because breastfed only (no water or formula) and duration were not measured or were poorly defined. 

Authors suggested that the dental community inform caregivers of the importance of cleaning babies' teeth with a soft washcloth as soon as their teeth start coming in. Cleaning the teeth is the most effective way to prevent tooth decay.

"We urge all dental professionals to reflect on the current evidence regarding breastfeeding as discussed in this article, and we call upon all dental team members to be advocates, promoters and supporters of breastfeeding," authors commented in the study. 

This study, titled "Breastfeeding An overview of oral and general health benefits," was published in The Journal Of The American Dental Association. It was funded by a grant from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Salone and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 8, 2013
Last Updated:
February 12, 2013