Babies who breastfeed for at least three months may have straighter teeth and fewer orthodontic problems as children, according to a study appearing online in a June 2015 issue of Pediatrics.
The study included 1,303 infants who were followed for five years. At birth, three months, one year and two years, parents were asked whether their children were breastfeeding. They also answered questions about pacifier (soother) use and tooth decay.
At age five, each child had a dental exam. Dentists looked for problems in the way the jaws and teeth aligned, including overbite, underbite and open bite, among others.
Children who were breastfed for three to six months had a 33% lower risk of overbite, compared with children who didn’t breastfeed. Children who were breastfed for more than six months had a 44% lower risk of overbite.
Compared with children who did not breastfeed, children breastfed for three to six months had a 41% lower risk of misalignment of the teeth. Those breastfed for more than six months had a 72% lower risk of this condition.
Children who breastfed but also used pacifiers saw less of a benefit, the study found. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that pacifier use during the first six months can decrease a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In another news story, one author noted that breastfeeding may help to develop the jaws, teeth and other facial structures in a way that bottle feeding does not.