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Breastfeeding and Dental Health

In a report today Public Health England have made recommendations on dental health and breastfeeding. Full information can be accessed at : www.gov.uk/government/publications/breastfeeding-and-dental-health/breastfeeding-and-dental-health#breastfeeding-and-dental-health

  • dental teams should continue to support and encourage mothers to breastfeed
  • not being breastfed is associated with an increased risk of infectious morbidity (for example gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, middle-ear infections)
  • breastfeeding up to 12 months of age is associated with a decreased risk of tooth decay

Delivering Better Oral Health (PHE, 2014 updated content 2017)4 recommends that:

  • breast milk is the only food or drink babies need for around the first 6 months of their life, first formula milk is the only suitable alternative to breast milk
  • bottle-fed babies should be introduced to drinking from a free-flow cup from the age of 6 months and bottle feeding should be discouraged from 12 months old
  • only breast or formula milk or cooled, boiled water should be given in bottles
  • only milk or water should be drunk between meals and adding sugar to foods or drinks should be avoided

Recent systematic reviews such as that by Tham and others (2015)6 included studies where children were breastfed beyond 12 months. When infants are no longer exclusively breast or formula fed, confounding factors, such as the consumption of potentially cariogenic drinks and foods and tooth brushing practices (with fluoride toothpaste), need to be taken into account when investigating the impact of infant feeding practices on caries development. Tham and others (2015) noted that several of the studies did not consider these factors and concluded that with regard to associations between breastfeeding over 12 months and dental caries “further research with careful control of pertinent confounding factors is needed to elucidate this issue and better inform infant feeding guidelines”. Good quality evidence on breastfeeding and oral health is an area with significant methodological challenges which have been outlined by Peres and others (2018)7.

Of course I would also have to highlight that dental procedures, including sedation, local and general anaesthetic and use of antibiotics and analgesics need not interrupt breastfeeding




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