Exclusive breastfeeding results in ‘drastic’ reduction of pediatric dental disease
Children who were exclusively breastfed for 6 months were less likely to have dental disease, according to data presented at the virtual American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo.
“These findings should change clinical practice by enforcing and stating the benefits of breastfeeding,” Nastocia Bafford, MPH, a fellow at Nemours Children's Health System, told Healio Primary Care.
Previous research has demonstrated that breastmilk contains immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G, which protect against bacterial and viral infections, according to Bafford. Studies have also shown that breastfeeding can reduce the risk for pediatric obesity and other childhood diseases, she said.
Bafford and colleagues studied the association between exclusive breastfeeding and the risk for dental disorders in 24,655 children aged 6 months to 5 years whose parents or guardians had completed the National Survey of Children’s Health in 2011 or 2012. They found that the overall prevalence of dental tooth decay, cavities and toothaches was 9%.
According to the researchers, the occurrence of dental disease was more prevalent among children who were never breastfed (12.3%) and those with public health insurance (14.3%).
Results showed that children who were breastfed exclusively for 6 months were 28% less likely to have dental tooth decay, cavities or toothaches (prevalence OR = 0.72, 95% CI, 0.52–0.98) than children who were never breastfed.
“There is a drastic difference in dental disease among children who are breastfed and who are not,” Bafford said.
Although the association between breastfeeding and dental health was clinically meaningful, Bafford said it did not persist after the researchers adjusted for various confounders (adjusted prevalence OR = 1.11, 99% CI 0.79–1.57).
The researchers also found that children of mothers with poor or fair health were almost twice as likely to have poor oral health, according to the researchers.
“If clinical practitioners stated the numerous benefits of breastfeeding to new mothers, it could possibly help decrease doctor and dental visits,” Bafford said.