Breastfeeding, Baby Teeth, & Dental Health: Q&A with Dana Fort, Dental Surgeon

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does breastfeeding harm teeth

In some circles, breastfeeding and dentistry can be a controversial issue. Did you know that some dentists encourage early weaning to promote oral health? As a proponent of breastfeeding, we’re tired of all the misinformation and have connected with a dental surgeon who’s setting the record straight:  breastfeeding leads to better dental health!

Dana Fort is a practicing Doctor of Dental Surgery at Chicago-based Atlagic Dental with 16 years of experience. She focuses on comprehensive family care and dental services to people of all ages (including children). She’s also a savvy business owner and multi-tasking mom who is focused on children’s health and safety.

I had a chance to sit down with Dana and ask her a few questions about breastfeeding’s role in tooth development and hygiene. It’s important for moms to understand the relationship between nursing and oral health.

What are your thoughts on nighttime breastfeeding?

Some dentists believe that nighttime breastfeeding can cause cavities because the natural sugar in breastmilk can pool in the mouth and break down teeth. However, cavities are extremely rare in children under three. Children have an abundance of saliva (which is overproduced for teething) that protects against tooth decay.  A recent study argues that breastfeeding actually prevents cavities, so there’s no reason to avoid night feedings. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age two.

What do parents need to know about tongue and lips ties?

A tongue tie exists when a child is born with a band of tissue that tethers the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. Similarly, a lip tie is when a band of tissue tethers the top lip to the upper gums.  While some cases need to be surgically fixed (so it doesn’t interfere with nursing), instances requiring correction are very rare. It’s been found that babies with mild cases often breastfeed without any problems. However, if a child is isn’t capable of opening his/her mouth properly it can make breastfeeding difficult, can cause speech problems later in life, and might require correction.

How does breastfeeding promote a healthy mouth, teeth and muscles?

Breastfeeding promotes proper facial muscle growth by shaping the palate, jaws, and teeth. The act of breastfeeding requires a sophisticated coordination of muscles and babies have to “work to nurse,” whereas drinking from a bottle is much more passive.

Additionally, while I understand the benefit of pacifiers, from a dental perspective, they should be avoided. If they’re used too long, they can cause an “open bite,” which creates a space between the top and bottom teeth when the mouth is closed. If you choose to use a pacifier, be sure to eliminate it by age two.

When should parents introduce gum massagers or tooth brushing?

It’s never too early to start good tooth/mouth care habits. The sooner you create a habit, the more likely your child is to carry it through their lives.

You should use a clean, warm washcloth to wipe down your child’s gums every day during the newborn months. Use this time to keep an eye out for oral thrush, a white, patchy growth in the cheek and tongue area which can make feeding painful. It’s easy to treat if you catch it early.

You should begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Some parents don’t bother protecting the baby teeth – they’ll just fall out, right? True, but baby teeth preserve spacing for the adult teeth, and any tooth decay can transfer to the incoming teeth.

Use a silicone tooth brush like Baby Banana. It has a unique flexible shape so you don’t have to worry if baby falls with the brush in his/her mouth.

How else are you concerned with newborn safety?

You can’t put a price on safety. No parent would ever forgive themselves if they were part of an accident that harmed their child. As parents, we spend a lot of time changing diapers and a changing table can be a dangerous place, because it’s easy for baby to roll off.

The PooPoose is a changing pad I invented that gently holds your baby still during diaper changes. I was inspired by a medical device that’s used by healthcare professionals to safely immobilize children. It’s comfortable for your baby to combat fussiness, but strong enough to keep even the mightiest wigglers still. The PooPoose is one of those inventions that makes life a little easier and a lot safer.

Thank you Dana for your helpful answers!

breastfeeding shirt clipWritten by Melissa LaHann, Founder and CEO of Happy Fig, LLC

Like many moms before her, Melissa cradled her hungry, crying baby as she clumsily adjusted her bra and sat uncomfortably holding up her shirt. Before she knew it, her baby was squirming, her shirt was falling, and the nursing session was interrupted. She needed a better solution, so she created LatchPal, the first nursing clip of its kind.

LatchPal is a breastfeeding shirt clip that holds up a mother’s shirt during breastfeeding. It eliminates shirt re-positioning and feeding disruptions, and helps a mom nurse hands-free in comfort to maximize milk flow. LatchPal was designed with moms in mind. The multi-use solution only requires one hand to latch. It’s a must-have breastfeeding accessory and essential for post-partum moms, pumping moms, and nursing in public.

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