News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Which Cause More Cavities? Mother's Milk Vs. Cow's Milk
A recent study comparing cola, sucrose drinks, honey, human milk, and cow milk indicates that cola, sucrose and honey cause more cavities than human or cow milk. But human milk caused significantly more cavities than cow milk, according to a study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center, published in the October issue of Pediatrics.
The authors do not advocate substituting cow milk for human milk. This study does warn parents to stop allowing babies to drink sugary liquids from bottles, to sweeten water with honey, or to let babies fall asleep on the nipple. Furthermore nursing mothers are alerted to the need to observe good hygiene practices after feeding, especially when infant's first teeth have erupted.
The interaction of bacteria with sugar produces acid that chemically dissolves enamel, the hard mineralized outer layer of the tooth. The longer sugar is allowed to remain in the mouth, the more severe the chemical damage. Limiting the time of exposure of infant's teeth to sugary products or milk by cleaning and rinsing the infant's mouth after feeding helps to minimize progression of dental decay.
A common question often asked is, "Why save baby teeth?" First of all, untreated cavities causes food trapping and discomfort in eating. When cavities get deep, infection and necrosis (tissue death) of the dental nerve results. This kind of infection is similar to gangrene. Often the infant or the child does not complain until pain and other symptoms rise to an intolerable level. When active infection is present in and around the tooth, the infant may have to undergo the trauma of a surgical extraction with a local anesthetic ("novacaine"). IV sedation or general anesthesia may be necessary with infants or young children.
Prematurely lost posterior baby teeth may need to be replaced with a "spacer," so that the remaining teeth do not collapse into the space left by the extracted tooth. If collapsing of the space is allowed to take place, orthodontic treatment may be necessary when the child gets older.
Therefore it is essential that parents practice good dental hygiene in feeding infants, and teach them good hygiene habits as they grow up.