Babies who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from misaligned teeth while growing up, according to a new study.

However, the use of pacifiers may reduce the benefits of breastfeeding, based on an Australian research published in the online journal Pediatrics  on June 15.

Breastfeeding has long been established as beneficial mainly because of the breastmilk, but the act itself also has its own set of benefits, according to Dr. Joanna Pierro, Staten Island University Hospital’s pediatric chief resident.

Aside from showing the dental benefits of breastfeeding such as preventing dental problems like malocclusion or teeth misalignment, it also gets down to the differences in the teeth of kids who were exclusively breastfed and those who were predominantly breastfed.

Even if babies consume breast milk, their oral cavity is still affected, and negatively at that, if they feed from a bottle, Pierro added, despite not being one of the study’s researchers.

The study was actually headed by Karen Peres and conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia. The team followed more than 1,300 children within the span of five years and studied their breastfeeding consumption when they were 3 months old, 1 year old, and 2 years old. They also studied the extent of the kids’ use of a pacifier, especially when they were 3 months old, 1 year old, 2 years old, and 4 years old. According to the study, about 40 of the kids today rely on their pacifier every single day for four years.

Kids who reached 5 years old were then checked for misaligned teeth problems, such as a crossbite, overbite, open bite, and varying degrees of misalignment.

Based on the study, babies who were purely breastfed for around three to six months have a lower risk of getting an overbite than those who didn’t. Breastfeeding for at least six months can reduce the risk of an overbite by 44 percent. [INPOSTLB]

Babies who breastfed for three to six months alone enjoy 41 percent less probability of suffering from a severe malocclusion. It is even lower for those who breastfed for more than six months, as their risk is reduced by 72 percent.

However, it is worth noting that the study was unable to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between breastfeeding and dental development in kids.

Peres has some possible explanations, though. She said that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing misaligned teeth because babies who breastfed develop proper orofacial structures. They get to enjoy proper nasal breathing and muscular tone. Moreover, these kids usually don’t use a pacifier, which is linked to malocclusion.

Pierro added that during breastfeeding, the baby has to move their jaw and tongue, helping form their oral cavity properly. The act itself may help encourage the proper alignment of the teeth.

Another study led by Dr. Danelle Fisher, pediatrics department vice chair at Providence Saint John’s Health Center found in Santa Monica, California, suggests that breastfeeding gives babies a regular jaw exercise. It requires babies to move more jaw muscles than when they were feeding with a bottle.

On the other hand, sucking on pacifiers can apply pressure on the baby’s growing jaw. When this development gets disrupted, it can lead to dental problems such as a misaligned jaw and teeth.

These findings should not justify getting rid of pacifiers altogether. The Academy of Pediatrics even suggests the use of pacifiers, but only during the first six months of the infant’s life. During this period, pacifiers may still be beneficial in lowering the baby’s vulnerability to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Parents should still use pacifiers, but to a limited extent. They won’t need it anyway once the child ages six months and above because this is usually when they have to start the weaning process.

For the sake of your baby’s health, both dental health and general well-being, it is always best to breastfeed your baby.