The Role of Diet

With respect to diet, breast-feeding has often been implicated in the disease especially when breast-feeding occurs at night. This also appears to be an oversimplification of a very complicated disease process.

In fact, when human breast milk is the only source of nutrition and not given throughout the night, decay-causing bacteria doesn't produce enough acid to cause decay. However, when human-breast milk is present in conjunction with other foods, decay can occur in 3.2 weeks.

Further, Swedish researchers found that children being breast-fed at 18 months of age were more likely to have decay compared to children of the same age who were no longer breast-fed. But the children with decay also had more decay causing bacteria in their mouths and ate more sweet and sticky foods.

Blaming a single item as a cause is oversimplifying and shortsighted.

Baby bottles filled with even diluted sugar containing beverages are definitely a factor in ECC when given to children overnight or during naps. This practice results in a 400% increase in the risk of decay developing. Recent evidence also indicates that iron deficiency impairs saliva production and children who begin eating salty meals early in life apparently increase their risk of decay.

It would appear prudent that for those mothers who wish to continue the benefits of breastfeeding for their children they should be more diligent than average in swabbing and cleaning their child's mouth out after each feeding and limit exposure to other sweet, sticky foods.

As well, a dentist should examine these children in a thorough manner as close to 12 months of age as possible. Any suspicious areas of decay should be thoroughly investigated and filled at an early stage.

Probably the most effective strategy known to prevent decay is water fluoridation. However fluoridation needs to be at an optimum level. The use of bottled water may reduce fluoride consumption and, in some cases, excessively increase it.