When it comes to caring for teeth, you cannot start too early. You don’t even need to wait for the teeth to erupt, as the tooth buds that are buried deep within the gumline are present even in early infancy. This is why you should start cleaning the gums and introducing water after just a couple of months after birth, this way oral hygiene will not come as a new and fearful routine, but as something that they are used to, having been exposed to since time immemorial.
From a dental point of view, there are pros and cons to breast feeding, but the interdisciplinary overall consensus is that breastfeeding is good for the child, and should be pursued for as long as possible.
Pros: The pros are that breast milk has essential nutrients that help build the tooth enamel and that help get good bacteria into the intestinal tract and into the oral cavity. Without breastfeeding, many problems can occur. MIlk teeth can fail to develop properly, and many formula fed babies do not develop sufficient tooth enamel on their teeth, leaving them with several diseases like symmetrical enamel hypoplasia. A study conducted in Brazil in 2013 on 200 children showed that children who did not receive mothers milk, or whose mothers had problems producing milk were much more likely to have DDE, or developmental defects of enamel, as were children whose mothers were under the age of 24 when they gave birth. Many times teeth become opaque and translucent from not having sufficient minerals, and this also happens more frequently to kids who were not exposed to enough breast milk.
Cons: Breast milk is almost entirely made of sugar and fat. Seeing as it is super starchy and basically includes the stuff that life thrives on, it should come as no surprise that bacteria also thrive on this wonderful substance. This way prolonged exposure to breast milk without rinsing and cleaning the teeth or the tooth buds will result in tooth decay. Also, the bacteria present in the mouth are also present in breastmilk, and the child can ingest harmful bacteria from a mother with, say, periodontitis or a severe case of alveolitis.
Perhaps the best reason to continue breast feeding a slong as possible and try to forego formula is because of a condition known as bottle mouth. Kids who get the bottle too or for too long often will have teeth that have characteristic problems, and these symptoms together are known as bottle mouth. Characteristic enamel erosion as well as orthodontic problem usually result from having the bottle in, and bacteria also get jammed up the teeth that come in contact with the bottle, which causes them to be at higher risk of tooth decay.
This does not mean that your kid is simply fated for tooth decay, just because you have to use formula. Use a cup instead of a bottle, and brush teeth twice a day, and you can spare your child the pain of bottle mouth altogether. You can also use a bottle sometimes and use a cup at other times. Another reason why a cup is good is because you can enforce it suse, and the kid will not just hang out with a bottle in their mouth, but instead will only use formula in a cup for feeding, and not for sucking on for comfort, as may be the case with a bottle.
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