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Fluoride reduces dental risk from minimal and extended breastfeeding, study says

ADELAIDE, Australia: A recent study has examined the interaction between fluoridated water consumption and breastfeeding duration in relation to dental caries experience. The findings suggest that exposing children to fluoridated water may reduce the risk of dental caries.

According to a report published in the Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures, in 2010, 55 per cent of 6-year-olds had experienced dental caries in their primary teeth. The new research looked at dental caries in 5- and 6-year-olds in Australia and examined whether they had been exposed to fluoridated water or breastfed as infants and for what duration. The study used data collected in one of the largest and most comprehensive population-based studies of child oral health in Australia, the National Child Oral Health Study 2012–14.

The findings indicated that breastfeeding for over a month and up to 24 months was associated with good oral health. Minimal breastfeeding, which includes no breastfeeding or breastfeeding for less than one month, however, and extended breastfeeding beyond 24 months were both linked to increased dental cavities. However, these effects were lessened if children were exposed to fluoridated water.

“Breastfeeding is important not only for general health but also for the dental health of young children,” said senior author Dr Loc Giang Do, a professor in the Faculty of Health and Medical Science at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. “Minimal breastfeeding can increase risk for having dental decay in children, as can sustained breastfeeding beyond 24 months,” he added. “However, potential risk can be reduced by drinking fluoridated water in formula or ensuring that breastfed children are given fluoridated water to drink after the age of 6 months.”

According to Do, in fluoridated areas, breastfeeding can be recommended beyond the age of 24 months, while in non-fluoridated areas, breastfeeding for up to 24 months is recommended not only for child general health and development but also for child dental health. “The use of fluoridated tap water should be recommended for young children,” Do commented and added that the dental profession should support and even encourage mothers of infants to breastfeed.

The study, titled “Fluoridated water modifies the effect of breastfeeding on dental caries”, was published online on 11 April 2019 in the Journal of Dental Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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