Children won’t be at an increased risk of tooth decay if they can’t breastfeed or if their mothers want to breastfeed them for longer, as long as they have access to fluoridated water, reports the University of Adelaide.
Using data from the National Child Oral Health Study 2012-2014, researchers there looked at cavities in children who were five and six years old, whether these children had been exposed to fluoridated water, and if they had been breastfed as infants and for how long.
The results indicated a sweet spot for breastfeeding and good dental health of more than one month and up to 24 months. But no breastfeeding or breastfeeding for less than one month and extended breastfeeding beyond 24 months were associated with increased caries. These effects, however, were reduced if the children were exposed to fluoridated water.
“Breastfeeding is important not only for general health but also for the dental health of young children,” said senior author Loc Do, BDS, MScDent, PhD, of the university’s Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, adding that dental decay is the most prevalent chronic condition in children.
“Minimal breastfeeding can increase risk for having dental decay in children, as can sustained breastfeeding beyond 24 months,” said Do. “However, potential risk can be reduced by drinking fluoridated water in formula or ensuring that breastfed children are given fluoridated water to drink after the age of six months.”
In fluoridated areas, breastfeeding can be recommended beyond 24 months, Do said. In non-fluoridated areas, breastfeeding for up to 24 months is recommended not only for the child’s general health but also for dental health. The researchers note that health organizations should establish a dialogue to maximize the benefits of both breastfeeding and water fluoridation.
“The use of fluoridated tap water should be recommended for young children,” said Do. “The dental profession should support and encourage mothers of infants to breastfeed.”
The study, “Fluoridated Water Modifies the Effect of Breastfeeding on Dental Caries,” was published by the Journal of Dental Research.