1. Exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a decrease in certain types of pediatric dental malocclusions regardless of whether or not the child used a pacifier.
2. Predominant breastfeeding was also associated with a decrease in malocclusions, but this link was negatively affected by the use of a pacifier.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: It is known that exclusive breastfeeding aids in protecting children against many infectious diseases. Previous research has shown a potential connection between exclusive breastfeeding and the prevention of dental malocclusion (imperfect positioning of the teeth), but no study has evaluated this link exclusively. Authors of the current study investigated the effects of exclusive (only breast milk without any other foods or drinks) and predominant (other liquids besides milk are provided though breast milk is the main source of nutrients) breastfeeding on the development of malocclusion. Results showed that exclusive breastfeeding was linked to reduced risk of malocclusion regardless of pacifier use. Predominant breastfeeding was also associated with a decreased risk as long as pacifiers were not used. Study results were limited as researchers found it difficult to measure accurate intensity and duration of pacifier use. However, results may encourage pediatric providers and dentists to urge mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children up to 6 months of age.
Relevant Reading: Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding
In-Depth [retrospective cohort]: Data from 1123 children (52.4% male) in the 2004 Pelotas Birth Cohort in Brazil were included for analysis in this study. Researchers invited cohort members to participate in the current oral health study at age 5. Trained dentists classified each participant’s teeth according to type of malocclusion (overjet, open bite, and crossbite) and severity (none, mild, and moderate/severe). Breastfeeding status was recorded at ages 3, 12, and 24 months of age. Researchers conducted regression analyses which controlled for socioeconomic/anthropometric features, sucking habits, dental carries, and dental treatment. A total of 16.1% of all mothers were classified as predominantly breastfeeding for ≥ 6 months, and 9.5% of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding. Predominant breastfeeding at 3 months was associated with a decrease in all types of malocclusion, but pacifier use up to 48 months nullified this statistical significance. Exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a decreased risk of anterior open bite and moderate/severe malocclusion even when adjusted for pacifier use. The prevalence of anterior open bite in exclusively breastfed children was 32% and 43% for the 3 – 5.9 months and up to 6 months groups, respectively, when compared to those who had not been breastfed.
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