Sunday, July 8, 2007

Breastfeeding = Good Teeth?

I was reading through the May/June 2005 issue of Mothering, one of many which my sister-in-law is letting me borrow, and found this article: "Build dental health with breastfeeding: nursing is a key player in the development of your child's healthy smile" (Luckily I found it on-line...but there aren't pictures). I thought I'd comment on a few excerpts:
...Studies have shown that a suckling infant uses significantly more muscular effort--20 to 60 times more, in fact--to obtain the milk from a human breast than he or she does from a bottle and artificial nipple. (1-3) These higher forces, even at the lower end of the scale, are now regarded as having highly significant effects on the growth and development of a baby's facial and dental structures, as well as aiding aeration and drainage of the eustachian tubes. (4, 5) In addition, suckling at the breast requires a very different use of the tongue and lips when compared to bottle-feeding.

Breastfed children tend to have wider, longer upper jaws that provide adequate space for the teeth to fit in and grow properly, without crowding or impaction. A correctly developed upper jaw will usually permit and encourage the lower jaw to develop normally as well (provided the parents' genes allow a normal jaw relationship). The overall result would seem to be that fewer breastfed children require orthodontic treatment, which reduces dental costs to families, the community, and insurance companies. (6, 7)

Now...in my family, my brother was breastfed for I believe 6 months or more and I was only fed for 2 months. We both ended up at the orthodontist...me for an overbite (probably due to big front teeth) and Blake for his crooked teeth. I ended up throwing away my bionator one too many times (oops!) and Blake got braces.
...there are four primary advantages directly attributable to the physical process of breastfeeding:
...* The tongue functions correctly, which leads to a normal adult swallow.

A girlfriend of mine breastfed, yet her son still had issues in choking on food. She had to get the Baby Safe Feeder to help him eat solid food.

Although bottle nipples have enormously improved over the last 15 years, their structure and texture have little in common with a natural nipple. Modern plastics and latex materials are too elastic and flimsy to compete with nature's brilliant design. The result is that milk flows too quickly, and the infant does not have to work as hard--again, by a factor of 20 to 60, according to several studies--to obtain it. (9) To control the flow of milk and avoid choking, the infant quickly learns to slow the flow by compressing the nipple between the tip of the tongue and the upper gum pad. It is necessary to hold this forward tongue position while swallowing; this position soon develops into a firmly established "tongue-thrust" swallow that will probably be a pattern for life.

To maintain suction, the lips are sealed against the rim of the hard plastic or glass bottle, and the front gum pads are distorted to fit. In the absence of the tongue's bulk in the center and rear of the mouth (because the tongue is now down and forward), the suction pulls the cheek muscles inward, preventing the sideways growth of the maxilla. The rate of swallow and the rocking motion of the mandible are noticeably faster, leaving less opportunity for proper oral digestion and increasing the likelihood of swallowing air. Colic is the common result.

The possible results of bottle-feeding are as follows:

...* poor drainage of the eustachian tubes, leading to:
* a predisposition to ear and upper-respiratory-tract infections: glue ear, tonsillitis, bronchitis, etc.
* crowded or misaligned teeth


Now they're making sense...God designed the boob perfectly! I know that I got a lot of ear infections as a kid...now we may have found the reason?
I know of no situation in which a baby has gained any advantage from having a pacifier inserted in his or her mouth. I believe it fair to say that the only people to gain from the use of a dummy are the child's parents or caregivers--hence the term pacifier itself. Furthermore, in 40 years of dentistry, I have seen literally hundreds of young mouths severely damaged by dental decay and by dento-facial distortion, very probably as a direct result of the excessive use and abuse of these devices.

...But tooth decay is only one of the problems; overuse of the tongue and suckling muscles, especially when they have been trained into bad habits by bottle-feeding, can distort and prevent the normal development of the dental arches. (12) This results in abnormal jaw formation and unbalanced relationships of the jaw and teeth. These commonly manifest as prominent front teeth (so-called buck teeth), front teeth that do not meet (open bite), and crowded teeth.

I have buck teeth...to an extent! I don't remember if I had a pacifier, though...but I really doubt we'll be getting our baby one now...
Thumb-sucking has a major advantage over a pacifier, in that when the child enters an episode of activity, playing or moving about, the thumb will invariably be removed from the mouth; a pacifier tends to remain in position. So the potential for dento-facial distortion is perhaps less with the thumb, at least in a child of normal activity.

Interesting...the only thing is that you cannot take away the thumb...so there goes the idea of an advantage!

...Various cranial traumas can cause the PRM to malfunction; of these, for obvious reasons, birth is the most common. A normal birth seldom causes any problem, but if a mother's small pelvis and/or a baby's large head result in a long, protracted labor, the head may be engaged in the pelvis for many hours and become misshapen. But nature has made allowances for this situation by providing a way of correcting the problem: breastfeeding. As mentioned already, the fact that the baby's muscles must work very hard to suckle means that any cranial misalignment will tend to be quickly corrected as a direct result of the pull of these muscles on the cranial and facial bones.

Other causes or exacerbations of cranial distortions and strains are mechanically assisted birth with forceps or vacuum suction, which can cause severe pressure on the soft cranial bones and cartilages. (15) Emergency cesarean section may become necessary if the baby gets "stuck." In the event of a cesarean section, the inevitable lack of normal-birth compression of the cranium (and the rest of the body) is thought to inhibit, or fail to "switch on," various reflexes, such as crawling/walking and hand-eye coordination, etc., and may result in an apparently slow-developing child. Breastfeeding following a cesarean section may redress some of these factors. An osteopathic midwife will usually massage a c-section newborn very firmly from head to toe in an effort to reproduce the birth-canal compressions of a normal birth. At the other end of the scale, a very rapid birth may also cause specific cranial strains, as well as fail to switch on certain essential neonatal reflexes.


Encouragement for birthing our little giant! This idea also makes me grateful that my mom at least breastfed me a little as I had a MAJOR cone head when I was born.

Any comments on experience or anyone else's research?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's important to note that this type of study is an epidemiological study. Epidemiology studies populations, not individuals. This means that the results of studies may not necessarily apply to specific individuals such as yourself (since you mentioned you were breastfed and still ended up with tooth issues). What epidemiology can tell us is that in certain populations there are increased or decreased risks as it may be due to exposure to certain factors. So, this article was basically saying that among those infants exposed to breastfeeding, there was/is decreased risks of developing particular outcomes such as misaligned teeth. If epidemiology studies are not interpreted correctly it is very easy to make erroneous applications to ourselves...we must remember that these types of studies apply to populations and that the results may or may not apply to individuals. It's frustrating, but important to understand the difference.