Breastfeeding 24 months or beyond, particularly if frequent, may be associated with severe early childhood caries, according to a new study.
The scientists, led by Benjamin Chaffee, DDS, at the University of California, Berkeley, studied a link between longer-term breastfeeding and cavities in 458 babies in low-income families in Porto Alegre, Brazil, according to an article in the Daily Mail.
"Our study does not suggest that breastfeeding causes cavities," Dr. Chaffee told the Daily Mail.
Most of the babies they studied were old enough to be eating solid foods as well as breast milk. The researchers checked on the babies when they were about 6, 12, and 38 months old.
Breastfeeding 24 months or beyond was associated with the highest adjusted population-average caries prevalence compared with breastfeeding less than six months, six to 11 months, or 12 to 23 months.
Also, high-frequency breastfeeding enhanced the association between long-duration breastfeeding and caries.
"Dental health should be one consideration, among many, in evaluating health outcomes associated with breastfeeding 24 months or beyond," the authors concluded.
They also speculated that it is possible that breast milk in conjunction with excess refined sugar in modern foods may be contributing to the greater tooth decay seen in babies breastfed the longest and most often, according to the article.