Breastfeeding and Childhood Dental Caries: Results from a Socially Diverse Birth Cohort Study

Agatha W. Van Meijeren-Van Lunteren, Trudy Voortman, Marlies E.C. Elfrink, Eppo B. Wolvius, Lea Kragt

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Previous studies showed that prolonged breastfeeding increases the risk of caries. However, the observed associations were mainly based on non-European populations, and important confounding and mediating factors like socioeconomic position (SEP) and diet were often neglected. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding practices on dental caries during childhood while accounting for SEP, ethnic background, and sugar intake. This study was part of the Generation R Study, a prospective multiethnic cohort study conducted in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In total, 4,146 children were included in the analyses. Information about feeding practices was derived from delivery reports and questionnaires during infancy. Caries was measured via intraoral photographs at the age of 6 years and defined as decayed, missing, and filled teeth (dmft). Negative binomial hurdle regression analyses were used to study the associations between several infant feeding practices and childhood caries. The prevalence of dental caries at the age of 6 years was 27.9% (n = 1,158). Prolonged breastfeeding (for >12 months) was associated with dental caries (OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.04-1.74) and the number of teeth affected by dental caries (RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.03-1.56). Furthermore, nocturnal bottle-feeding was associated with dental caries (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.20-1.93). All associations were independent of family SEP, ethnic background, and sugar intake. Results from this Dutch cohort study confirmed the previously observed associations between prolonged breastfeeding and nocturnal bottle-feeding and the increased risk of childhood dental caries, even after proper adjustments for indicators of SEP, ethnic background, and sugar intake. Future studies are encouraged to elaborate further on possible explanations for the observed relationships. Healthcare professionals should be aware and advise caregivers about the potential risk of prolonged breastfeeding on caries development by applying the current recommendations on breastfeeding, oral hygiene, and feeding frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-161
Number of pages9
JournalCaries Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Sources
This work was supported by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Centre, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, The
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Ministry of Health Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Youth and Families, and the European Research Council. The dental caries assessment of
the study was financially supported by an unrestricted grant of GABA International, Therwil, Switzerland.

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