Do breastfed babies really need to see a pediatric dentist for a checkup? I’m getting conflicting information. My son is nine months old and has been exclusively breastfed the entire time. We’re now starting to introduce some table foods when he shows an interest in them. He has only had teeth for a couple of months and, because nursing is not the same as formula feeding, I don’t see any value in scheduling a visit. Is there a real reason a checkup is recommended regardless of how the baby is fed, or is it ok for low-risk groups (like breastfed babies) to skip the one-year checkup? Alya
Alya – This is a great question! Many parent wonder when they should take child for a first pediatric dentist’s visit. You made a lot of good points. Breastfeeding is totally different from formula/ bottle feeding.
First, the content is naturally different. Secondly, the mechanics are different. Instead of bringing the formula into his mouth where it would pool with a bottle, he pulls it farther back which stimulates the natural swallow response and very little (if any) tooth exposure happens.
Moreover, there is mounting evidence that breastfeeding may actually protect children against cavities. If the mom has built up enough cavity-fighting bacteria, she can share that in her milk, so it would seem these little ones have a whole lot going for them and might not need to see a pediatric dentist. But, it’s never that simple.
Breastfed Babies Need to See Pediatric Dentists for Checkups
There are many reasons why it’s wise to get your son’s teeth checked out by a pediatric dentist.
Genetics: Your baby’s teeth started developing in the womb. If there’s anything abnormal about his oral development, it’s good to catch and treat it early.
Bacteria: Parents usually share food with their kids. What they don’t realize is that they are sharing bacteria as well. This can be beneficial because some bacteria are good and help keep your oral health balanced. It fights off the bad bacteria that cause cavities. On the other hand, it can be bad, because you’re also sharing cavity-causing bacteria. Studies have shown that parents with periodontal disease and cavities have higher levels of bad bacteria. And they almost always pass it off to their kids through kisses and sharing food.
Cavities: Even exclusively breastfed (EBF) babies who haven’t received cavity-causing germs can still get cavities. At this point, there’s nothing to suggest they are at a higher risk, but it is possible that an EBF baby could still pool milk in his mouth if he falls asleep eating. That ferments and goes bad. Whether or not it causes cavities, science has not conclusively decided, but it certainly has the potential.
Follow Good Oral Hygiene Practices to Be Safe
The first pediatric dental visit is quick, and most insurances cover it in full. If spending a few minutes in the office can help you and your child avoid future dental problems, it’s well worth it. Yes, you’ll likely be told your son is fine, but how would you feel if he wasn’t and you could have helped him before something became a real problem?
Meanwhile, be sure you’re brushing your son’s teeth or using a special wipe/tool to clean his teeth after he eats and before bed. You can also offer him water after meals to help rinse away residue. Although these are only his primary teeth, they will impact the health of his adult teeth. It’s important to establish good practices early.
This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.