Dr. Nammy Patel, the founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, sits down with John Maher to talk about the importance of breastfeeding. She covers how breastfeeding impacts oral health and the shape of the jaw, and she explains how this affects a person’s health during their whole life.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole-body health, and author of the best-selling book Age with Style: Your Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living. Today our topic is the dangers of not breastfeeding. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.

Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John.

What Can Happen to Children Who Are Not Breastfed?

John: Dr. Nammy, what issues can potentially occur in children who are not breastfed?

Dr, Nammy: The main thing that happens if children are not breastfed is that their tongue does not develop properly. In order for the tongue to develop, the child needs to suck on the breast and really create that tight suction. The tongue has to work really hard in order to extract the breast milk. What’s happening with Western culture, women are going to work, so they’re not necessarily having the ability to breastfeed their children as much as they would like or as long as they would like.

It’s actually recommended that children are breastfed for two years because of the quality of milk and also for their cranial structural element as they grow and mature. And as a tongue develops, everything around it is what starts developing. So, as a tongue develops, a palate develops around it, the cranial base develops around it.

So, what happens with children who are not breastfed for a long period of time, they actually end up having a high palate, because they’re on a pacifier or they’re thumb-sucking, and so they end up getting these really deep, high palates which cause sinus issues and also airway issues. And these kids, as they grow up, they have ADHD. They’re unruly. They’re hard to maintain. They can’t focus really well. They’re bedwetting. These are some common things that we notice about these children.

How Bottle Feeding Affects Oral Health

John: Are there other issues that infants can have because of bottle feeding?

Dr, Nammy: The main reason, yes, bottle feeding also is if they fall asleep, they’ll end up getting cavities because of the milk has so much sugar in it, and the kids are just passive again. They’re not actively suckling on the breast, are not actively working in order to extract the breast milk. So, that ends up causing a big issue as well, because when a baby bottle sits in the mouth, it’ll just sit there versus when it’s a body and a breast, unless you’re sucking on it, it’s not going to spew out breast milk.

So, main things that we’re looking at with children is a lot of the palate and making sure it’s developed properly, the nose, also the throat, making sure their airway’s being developed. And then also when they’re bottle-fed, they also get the cavities, which is not something we want.

Advice for New Mothers

John: What recommendations do you have then for expecting mothers as they’re considering the difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding? What sort of advice do you have for them?

Dr, Nammy: What I would say is if you’re bottle feeding, there are nipples out there or little bottle tops that stimulate. They’re thicker, so the babies actually have to work harder in order to extract the breast milk. So I would say use something along those lines. I would also say avoid a pacifier and avoid thumb-sucking. Those are really, really big issues that they should avoid.

And also start giving them a hard-food diet. Western culture says that have baby food up to two years. Really, you can give them soft foods earlier on at six months when their teeth start developing, and giving them more and more hard foods as they become older. Then they don’t need as much breast milk if they’re having a hard-food diet as well. So, that helps a lot is introducing good quality foods when they were younger, and not mashing everything up but getting their muscles to work. When they’re chewing, it’s actually developing their facial muscles to work, which actually helps their bone to develop and the density to work and develop properly.

Breastfeeding Moms and Their Oral Health

John: Okay. Are there any oral health issues that breastfeeding moms should be aware of for themselves in terms of the different hormone levels that they have as they’re breastfeeding and things like that?

Dr, Nammy: Absolutely. So, the biggest thing that breastfeeding moms need to be aware of is you need to go see the dentist, because a lot of that calcium is being leached out of you, so high risk for cavities and also bleedy gums, because that progesterone, that oxytocin, it’s all still getting balanced after pregnancy. So, very important that you are going to the dentist and making sure you’re taking care of yourself.

The other thing I forgot to mention is to look at the baby and see if they have a tongue tie. That’s another big issue that babies have is if they’re tongue-tied. If that can be removed when they’re younger, it actually helps them develop better and healthier long-term too and help make sure that it doesn’t cause any problems with their palates as they grow up as well.

Contact Us at Green Dentistry Today

John: All right. That’s great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dr, Nammy: My pleasure.

John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.