ADELAIDE, Australia: A study conducted at the University of Adelaide has suggested that children who are breastfed for at least two years could be at a higher risk of dental caries. The researchers considered this finding against the children’s pattern of sugar intake from foods.
The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of prolonged breastfeeding on children’s teeth. The conceptualiser of the study, Dr Karen Glazer Peres from the Adelaide Dental School, explained that children still breastfed at age 2 or older had an increased risk of developing dental problems, including teeth that showed signs of decay, were missing or had a filling. According to the study, their risk of having severe early childhood caries was also 2.4 times higher compared with those who were only breastfed up to 1 year of age. However, the researchers found that breastfeeding up to age 13–23 months had no effect on dental caries incidence.
Overall, 1,129 children born in 2004 in Pelotas in Brazil, a community with a public fluoridated water supply, were included in the study. The breastfeeding data was collected at birth and when the children were 3 months and 1 and 2 years old. Additionally, data on sugar consumption was collected at ages 2, 4 and 5.
The researchers found that sugar consumption was only associated with a greater risk of having severe early childhood dental caries when children who consumed the highest amount were compared with those who consumed the least. Taking into account the sugar consumption of the children, the analysis showed that prolonged breastfeeding was an independent risk factor for severe caries and decayed, missing or filled teeth.
“Breastfeeding is the unquestioned optimal source of infant nutrition. Dental care providers should encourage mothers to breastfeed and, likewise, advise them on the risk. General recommendations such as drinking fluoridated water as well as cleaning a child’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste before going to bed may help to prevent dental caries,” said Peres.
The study, titled “Impact of prolonged breastfeeding on dental caries: A population-based birth cohort study”, was published in the June issue of the Pediatrics journal. It was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas and University of São Paulo in Brazil.