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Breastfeeding May Protect Against Some Bite Problems
September 19, 2012

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Children who are breastfed for at least 1 year have a lower risk of having some bite problems between ages 3 and 5.

The results come from a Brazilian study. It included 153 children. During the children's first 6 months of life, their parents answered questions at 6 different time points. The questions were about:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Use of a pacifier
  • Bottle feeding
  • Thumbsucking

The same questions were asked again when the children were between 3 and 5 years old. By then, nearly half of the children - 48% - had one type of bite problem. Dentists call bite problems "malocclusions." A bite problem happens when the upper and lower teeth do not come together properly.

In this study, researchers looked at a bite problem called distocclusion. This happens when the lower teeth are behind the upper teeth when the mouth is closed.

The researchers found that children breastfed for 12 months or longer had a 56% lower risk of this bite problem than children breastfed for shorter time periods. The researchers took into account other factors that might affect tooth alignment. These included pacifier use and bottle feeding.

A 2011 study found that breastfeeding for 12 months or more also reduced the risk of a different type of bite problem, called open bite. In this condition, the upper and lower front teeth do not touch when the mouth is closed.

The Brazilian study was published in the September 10 issue of the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.

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