Breast-feeding and early childhood caries: an assessment among Brazilian infants

Int J Paediatr Dent. 2004 Nov;14(6):439-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-263X.2004.00569.x.


Objectives: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate early childhood caries among 12-36-month-old children from families living in poor socio-economic conditions in the city of Recife, Brazil, its association with the type and duration of feeding (e.g. natural, sugared, bottle and glass), as well as the relationship between a supplementary diet and the occurrence of this type of caries.

Methods: The present study consisted of a visual clinical examination of teeth that had been previously cleaned with gauze. This was carried out under natural light in a waiting room. Four calibrated examiners performed the examination and the kappa test value was 8.0. The parents or guardians were interviewed for the following information: name, address, age, type of feeding, number of sugary meals, sugar intake and habitual diet. Some 468 children were included in this study. Their ages ranged from 12 to 36 months. The sample was comprised of 222 (47.4%) males and 246 females (52.6%).

Results: Of the 468 children included in this study, 133 (28.4%) had caries. Only 59 (12.6%) of the children examined had been breast-fed, 20 (33.9%) of whom presented with caries. Three hundred and twenty-seven (69.9%) subjects had been bottle-fed with sugared milk, 86 (26%) of whom had caries. Two hundred and eight children had five or more sugary meals per day, 70 (33.6%) of whom had caries. No statistically significant relationship was seen between breast-feeding and the prevalence of tooth decay.

Conclusions: The results of the present study show that the prevalence of early childhood caries in 12-36-month-old children from poor backgrounds in Recife is in accordance with the rate found in other Brazilian cities and is extremely high compared with that of the world population as a whole. Early childhood caries was not clearly related to the type of feeding in this sample. The prevalence of early childhood caries increased with age, and the number of sugary snacks between meals and a cariogenic diet were strongly related to early childhood caries. The lack of fluoridated water and high rates of early childhood caries in lead the authors to suggest that fluoride dentifrice should be introduced at 12 months of age as a fluoride supplement and an important aid in the prevention of childhood caries. Additional studies in different cultures and societies need to be undertaken before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Bottle Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology*
  • Diet, Cariogenic
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class


  • Dietary Sucrose