Jaw Problems 03/07/2024

How Is Breastfeeding Linked To Jaw Development And Braces?

There’s a lot of talk in the parenting sector about how “breast is best” for a child’s development, bonding and nutrition. But did you know that breastfeeding also has an impact on jaw development and the likelihood that children will need braces as they get older?

This is not to shame parents that might struggle with breastfeeding or face issues along the way. The decision to solely breastfeed, bottle feed or offer a combination of the two is a deeply personal choice that should stay between a parent, their child and the medical professionals they turn to for advice.

In offering this information, we are only sharing what the research says about the link between breastfeeding and jaw development. There will obviously be cases where children are breastfed for as long as possible and they still need braces later in life. And some children who are exclusively bottle fed may find they have perfect dental alignment later in life.

In sharing this information, we hope to be able to help parents to make an informed choice and consider the impact early life choices will have on their child’s development in the future.

What is the link between breastfeeding and jaw development?

What is the link between breastfeeding and jaw development?

Research appears to show that children that are breastfed are less likely to require braces when they are older. This is because of the way the soft palate is changed by the repeated motion of pressing the tongue against the top of the mouth while feeding. This action is not replicated when children drink from a bottle.

This isn’t the only action that helps to shape the soft palate. The soft and wax-like part of the mouth is shaped by tongue thrusting during feeding, swallowing and learning to speak.

Tongue thrusting during breastfeeding will also influence the way the airway develops, which can reduce the risk of breathing disorders such as sleep apnea later in life.

What does the science say?

What does the science say?

We’re not saying that all children who are fed with a bottle are destined for braces later in life. According to one study of almost 9,700 children that took place in 1981, children that were breastfed for longer had a lower risk of malocclusion.

Another review of 48 studies that was published in 2015 found that breastfeeding reduced the risk of misaligned teeth. And finally, a 2016 study found that children breastfed for fewer than 6 months were more likely to have crowded baby teeth.

How long should parents breastfeed?

The evidence suggests that exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months is best for your child’s jaw development. Where possible, continuing breastfeeding for up to 2 years offers further benefits. Ultimately, it’s down to parents and their healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action here.

While avoiding braces later in life could offer some benefits, this shouldn’t be prioritised over early childhood nutrition. Regular dental checkups can help to mitigate some of the issues associated with jaw development and ensure your child gets the support they need when they need it.

Should parents be worried?

Should parents be worried?

If you are concerned about how early habits might influence your child later in life, the best choice is to speak to your healthcare professional or dentist. Ultimately, your child’s nutritional needs are the most important factor to consider.

You can start dental checkups from the age of 6 months or when your child’s first teeth start to emerge. This will allow you to ask questions about your child’s dental development and habits that might influence how their teeth emerge.

The need for orthodontic treatment in their teenage years could be avoided by ensuring their adult teeth have the space to emerge. This can be achieved by monitoring the adult teeth closely as they emerge and using a retainer to ensure the teeth emerge correctly.

Final thoughts on breastfeeding and jaw development

While the evidence might suggest that jaw development is linked to breastfeeding, this isn’t the only thing that parents should be concerned with. While it might be interesting to note this link, it doesn't offer any guarantees. Raising a child is all about making decisions based on the information available to you at the time, and this doesn’t always follow the plan you might have had in your mind.

Related news from the practice

Map of Benfleet Dental Centre

Visit the practice

Benfleet Dental Centre

8 Benfleet Road, Benfleet. SS7 1QB

Opening times

Monday08:00 - 17:00
Tuesday08:00 - 18:30
Wednesday08:00 - 17:00
Thursday08:00 - 17:00
Friday08:00 - 17:00
Saturday09:00 - 14:00*
*By appointment only