Tooth decay is the most common infectious disease in the world today and affects all age groups - even the smallest ones. As soon as the first milk tooth erupts at around 6 months of age, caries can develop, which is why mothers are afraid to continue breastfeeding, as the high lactose content of breast milk is suspected of causing tooth decay in many mothers. Is it therefore necessary to wean from the first milk tooth?

Should I still breastfeed my child after a tooth eruption?

According to scientific studies, there is evidence to say that breastfeeding after the eruption of the teeth is absolutely okay and does not ensure that tooth decay develops or is favored. There is nothing like breast milk for babies and toddlers as it strengthens the children's immune system and contains enzymes that fight bacteria. There is still no synthetic substitute preparation that is as effective and positive for the development of the child as the mother's milk.

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Furthermore, breastfeeding promotes the development of the teeth and the training of the muscles. Active sucking, which only leads to milk coming out of the chest, trains and strengthens the jaw muscles. It has also been scientifically proven that breastfed children develop fewer misaligned teeth due to habits such as thumb sucking, lip biting or cheek sucking than bottle-necked children. The assumption here is that the active training of the muscles, which are missing when sucking the bottle, puts the muscles in such a way that there is no incentive for incorrect inclinations. Therefore, the doctrine of both medicine and dentistry is that nothing is better for a child's development than breast milk.

Should I only breastfeed my child during the day?

Tooth decay cannot develop through breastfeeding, as there are no caries bacteria in breast milk. Breast milk even shows positive effects against Streptococcus mutans. It contains lactose, commercially available milk sugar and some enzymes that strengthen the immune system and thereby counteract the germs that lead to caries. These primarily include lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, which protect the teeth. Nocturnal breastfeeding is therefore absolutely legitimate and does not increase the risk of caries formation in the child's oral cavity.

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Furthermore, due to the active muscle process of sucking, the breast milk has only brief contact with the oral cavity, which is why this does not offer any contraindications for night-time breastfeeding. With bottle feeding, the contact time of the milk with the teeth is significantly longer and the muscles are less stimulated, which is more likely to favor tooth decay. By actively stimulating and training the chewing muscles, strengthening the immune system and the enzymes that strengthen the oral flora, you should not be afraid to breastfeed - whether during the day or at night. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that breast milk is one aspect, but thorough oral hygiene is the most important thing in order to protect the child from tooth decay. Therefore, regular brushing of teeth twice a day is essential, even for small children.

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Where do the caries bacteria come from?

Among the bacteria in the oral cavity, one bacterium is scientifically a protagonist in the development of caries. The caries leading bacterium Streptococcus mutans is the main germ responsible for the most common infectious disease on earth and is present in almost every human oral cavity. This bacterium is not found in breast milk and therefore cannot be transmitted through breastfeeding. The direct exchange between the child and the parents offers more potential for transmission. When mother and child kiss or use the same cutlery, Streptococcus mutans can enter the child's organism.

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Pacifiers and feeding bottles also pose a high risk of child contact with the bacterium. But this contact does not mean that the child is developing tooth decay. Almost everyone carries Streptococcus mutans in their oral cavity and does not develop tooth decay immediately, as thorough oral hygiene is sufficient to minimize the risk of tooth decay. Tooth decay only occurs when bacteria receive enough substrate, our food, that remains in the oral cavity for a long period of time. Since all the factors must be present for tooth decay to occur, no infection will occur with good oral care.

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Constant drinking of sweetened teas or juices through the feeding bottle causes the so-called nursing bottle syndrome. Regular drinking ensures that the teeth are always surrounded by sugar, which provokes tooth decay, as substrate is available for the bacteria in the oral cavity for a long time. This is metabolized and tooth decay occurs due to the acid produced by the bacteria. In the nursing bottle syndrome, the front teeth are completely rotten and blackened by the caries. Therefore, children should only be given water through feeding bottles.

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What can I do if I am breastfeeding and my child already has tooth decay?

If the child has deciduous tooth caries, it is not necessary to stop breastfeeding because breastfeeding does not cause the caries. You can also continue to breastfeed during the night. However, parents should start brushing the child's teeth more thoroughly and intensely to prevent tooth decay from progressing. It is important that a toothbrush is used especially for small children in the morning and in the evening, regardless of whether it is manual or electric.

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Small children do not yet have the skills and abilities to clean their teeth on their own, which is why parents have to take care of this. Furthermore, care should be taken not to give the child any sweetened teas or juices in the feeding bottle, because this is usually the main cause of tooth decay. The constant short-term drinking ensures that the teeth are constantly washed over and over with sugar and thus provides the bacteria with food that causes tooth decay after a while. Even if sweetened foods are consumed by the child, they should be rinsed with water afterwards or, at best, their teeth should be brushed again by the parents. Otherwise, the risk of losing the milk teeth is great and these are immeasurable for correct tooth development, as they have a placeholder function for the permanent teeth. They ensure that the bite develops normally and that the permanent teeth break through in the intended place. Premature loss can result in misalignments and incorrect bite positions, which can be avoided by good and regular oral care by parents and child.

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