According to a new study, there is no association between breastfeeding and tooth decay in infants. However, it was found that being poor, Mexican-American, or having a mother who smoked during her pregnancy, were independent factors that raised the risk of early childhood tooth decay.

Dr. Hiroko Lida, University of Rochester, New York, explained that despite limited epidemiologic evidence, there has been concern that breastfeeding and its duration could raise the risk of early childhood tooth decay.

Lida and team decided to carry out a study aimed at assessing the potential link there might be between breastfeeding and other factors with the risk of early childhood caries in the USA.

The researchers gathered information on infant feeding and other child and family characteristics among 1,576 children aged 2 to 5 years from the 1999-2002 National Health Nutrition Examination Survey.

After making adjustments for factors which could influence the likelihood of early childhood tooth decay, the scientists found that there was no link between breastfeeding, regardless of how long it went on for, and tooth decay during early childhood.

They did find that the following factors raised the risk of dental caries for an older child:

— Being poor
— Being Mexican-American
— Not having been to the dentists during the last 12 months
— Maternal smoking during pregnancy

They also found that being poor and Mexican-American was independently linked with severe early childhood tooth decay.

The scientists concluded that there is no evidence that breastfeeding or its duration are independent risk factors for early childhood tooth decay, severe early childhood caries (tooth decay), or decayed and filled surfaces on primary teeth. As being poor, Mexican-American, and smoking during pregnancy are independent risk factors, the researchers say these groups need to be targeted for early preventative dental visits.

“Association Between Infant Breastfeeding and Early Childhood Caries in the United States”
Hiroko Iida, DDS, MPH, Peggy Auinger, MS, Ronald J. Billings, DDS, MSD and Michael Weitzman, MD
PEDIATRICS Vol. 120 No. 4 October 2007, pp. e944-e952 (doi:10.1542/peds.2006-0124)
Click here to view abstract online

Written by: Christian Nordvist