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Breastfed infants are guarded against teeth misalignments

Posted:  Monday, June 22, 2015

Time to say cheese, breastfed babies! Adding to a long list of benefits, studies now find that breastfeeding helps reduce the incidence of misaligned teeth in newborns. However, overusing pacifiers does not help achieve the same outcome.

In the study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers observed 1,300 children over a period of five years. Information on the amount of breastfeeding at 3 months, 1 year and 2 years of age and the frequency of pacifier use was collected in addition to the occurrence of dental issues at the age of five.

The findings of the study were presented according to the presence of open bite, cross-bite, overbite and moderate or severe malocclusion. The researchers found that the risk of overbite reduced by one-third in infants exclusively breastfed for 3–6 months. There was also a proportional risk reduction in misaligned teeth as the period of breastfeeding increased, with a 41 percent reduction in infants exclusively breastfed up to 6 months and a 72 percent risk reduction when breastfeeding was continued for 6 months or longer.

Talking about the study, Dr. Joanna Pierro, a paediatric chief resident at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City said, "While it is well established that exclusively breast-fed babies are at a decreased risk of dental malocclusion, this study revealed the differences between those exclusively breast-fed versus those who are predominantly breast-fed".

Although the exact mechanism behind this association is not yet established, the authors theorize that breastfeeding promotes movement of the infant’s jaw during sucking and thus ensures development of orofacial structures and muscular strength. Pacifiers stimulate non-nutritive sucking and prevent sudden infant death syndrome. However the use of pacifiers must be restricted to 6 months failing which dental deformities may occur due to pressure exerted by pacifiers on the developing jaws of infants.

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