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Long-Term Breastfeeding Leads To Dental Cavities In Children

First Posted: Jul 03, 2017 05:22 AM EDT
Public Breastfeeding Law
Kiki Valentine breastfeeds her 9-week-old son, Hart Valentine, on the steps of City Hall during a rally to support breastfeeding in public.
(Photo : Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Breastfeeding is recommended for children up to 2 years of age. However, longer than that, the child is more likely to develop dental cavities by the time they are 5. The study holds up independently of how much sugar they get from other food they consume.

Karen Glazer Peres of the University of Adelaide in Australia and her colleagues analyzed data from 1,129 children born in 2004 in Brazil, in a community with public fluoridated water supply. Breastfeeding information was collected at birth, and again when the children reached three months, again at 1 year and again at 2 years. Sugar consumption data was also collected when the children aged 2, 4 and 5 years.

According to Reuters, by age 5, nearly 24 percent of children had severe early childhood caries, which means that they had at least six or more decayed, missing or filled tooth surfaces. Nearly half of the children had at least one tooth surface affected.

Children who have been breastfed for at least two years are found to have a higher number of decayed teeth, missing or had a filling. The risk of having early childhood caries were also found to be 2.4 times higher for them compared to those who were only breastfed for a year. Those who were breastfed for 13 to 23 months were also found to have no effect on dental caries.

Dr. Peres explained how this happens. She said, "First, children who are exposed to breast-feeding beyond 24 months are usually those breastfed on demand and at night." Second, she also noted that higher frequency of breastfeeding and nocturnal breastfeeding makes it difficult for parents to clean their children's teeth at this point.

CNN reported that Márcia Vitolo, a professor of health sciences at the Federal University of Health Sciences in Porto Alegre, Brazil, also believed that breastfeeding at a high frequency and high sugar intake can explain the study results. Although not involved in the study, she shared the same conclusions as Peres. However, she also added that because this study was conducted in Brazil, it does not automatically mean that it will be applicable to other parts of the world.

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