Dentists and speech pathologists have discovered many factors affecting the proper development of the mouth and jaws soon after birth. There is a good chance for dental problems as a result of not breastfeeding your baby. Although not all breastfed babies have a guarantee of straight teeth for the rest of their lives, they certainly have the best chance of all.
Many variables may affect the development of straight teeth both after birth as well as during pregnancy. For example, birth trauma may induce intracranial pressures if there is a breach birth or prolonged labor. Excessive intracranial pressures could affect jaw development.
During intrauterine life the health of the mother will affect the baby's teeth. For example, "tetracycline staining" of teeth will cause a definite gray hue to the enamel forming on the front teeth at the particular time the drug was used during the pregnancy. A high fever in the mother will also stop enamel calcification causing white or brown bands of hypocalcification occasionally on some front teeth.
And, of course, heredity is one factor that plays a pert in unpreventable malocclusions (bad bites, crooked teeth) or mouth and facial malformations. If the child inherits the father's large upper jaw and the mother's small lower jaw, or vice versa a definite problem will result. Some people have protruding lower jaws. If this is a "structural," skeletal deformity, this feature could be inherited. If it is "functional," or adaptive for that individual, the offspring probably won't exhibit this shape and type of lower jaw.
The mother's diet during pregnancy can also affect jaw development. Fifty years ago, Dr. Weston Price pointed out a correlation between human nutrition and the incidence of crooked teeth and bones in children. He visited tribesmen and aborigines in numerous corners of the earth. He photographed natives' teeth and bodies, and then revisited these same peoples and photographed the identical families 10 years later. During his follow-up visit he discovered and photographed in many instances, the occurrence of new conditions in many mouths and some bodies. For the first time he saw malocclusions (crooked teeth) in some children. He saw, during his second visit, many natives with rampant tooth decay, missing teeth, and bleeding gums. He also observed some cleft lips in some young children for the first time. Skin rashes, acne and obesity also were observed.
What had happened? After conducting a thorough investigation, Dr. Price learned that some of these "primitive," unspoiled tribe members visited a nearby "civilized" mainland or metropolis in their area. In these "advanced" cities, refined carbohydrates such as sugar, candy, cakes, cookies, dry cereals, white bread, white rice, spaghetti, soda, and the like were available and consumed.
After birth, the first and most important factor to consider in the development of straight teeth is breastfeeding. Proper breastfeeding must be started as soon after birth as possible, preferably on the delivery table. Actually and ideally, breast massage and manual expression of milk should be practiced several weeks before delivery as an important preparation. Mothers should be aware of proper breastfeeding techniques, which include position of the baby during feeding, frequency of feedings, expression of milk right before nursing when the nipple is engorged, breaking of the suction to prevent a sore nipple, and steering the nipples to maintain proper air space at all times when nursing.
If you can't physically or psychologically breastfeed, which artificial nursing system is best? Correction: which system is not the worst? Although no nipple is anywhere as stretchable or compressible as a human nipple, both the Nuk nipple and the Playtex Orthodontic nipple are shaped best. They are ideally contoured to conform to the shape of the space between the palate (roof of the mouth) and the tongue in the developing baby's mouth.
It is important to choose a pliable nipple because if a thick, tough artificial nipple is put in the moth, the baby's young, relatively weak lip muscles can't press hard enough to get liquid out of the bottle properly, so the tongue, a stronger muscle than the lip muscles at birth, is pushed forward against the nipple to release the milk. This activity can cause the start of a so-called "tongue thrust" habit or more properly called a "deviate swallowing pattern," which can result not only in crooked or "buck" teeth but in periodontal disease and throat and stomach problems.
For example, "globus hystericus," or lump in the throat, has been associated with a deviate swallow. It appears that most people who choke to death swallow this way. The reason is that the throat muscles and other posterior swallowing muscles are more poorly developed in these individuals. Also, with a deviate swallow comes an increased incidence of periodontal (gum disease, gingivitis, pyorrhea) disease. Since the tongue is pushing on the teeth with each swallow, the pressure on the teeth could loosen them eventually in some susceptible individuals. It will also cause more food to be pushed and forced against and between the teeth.
Parents also often ask about the use and type of pacifiers. A pacifier is better than a thumb, blanket, finger, toy, or other object. Soft stretchy pacifiers are best. Again, none is as pliable as the human nipple. Your baby's lips develop proper tone only when the pacifier is supple and easily compressed.
Lastly, reports indicate that women who breastfeed almost never develop breast cancer. This is certainly another plus for natural living. If you are physically able to breastfeed, make the right decision. The choice is yours.
Byers, T., Graham, S., Rzepka, T., et al. Lactation and Breast Cancer: Evidence for a Negative Association in Premenopausal Women. Am. J. Epidemiol. 1985; 121:664-74.
Garliner, D. Myofunctional Therapy. W.A. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, London, Toronto, 1976.
Garliner, D. Myofunctional Therapy in Dental Practice. Bartel Dental Book Co., Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1971.
Goldberg, S. There Must be a Reason. Bulletin Flatbush Dental Soc., 21 April 1981.
McTiernan, A. Thomas, L.B. Evidence for a Protective Effect of Lactation Risk or Breast Cancer in Young Women. Am. J. Epidemiol. 1986; 124:353-358.
Price, W. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottinger Nutritional Foundation, Inc., 2901Wilshire Blvd., Suite 345, Santa Monica, California 90403, 1945.