Tooth Decay in Babies & Toddlers
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Tooth Decay in Babies & Toddlers
We need referrals for toddler dentists and homeopathic/herbal
appreciating pediatricians. Our story : we asked our pediatrician
about discolored front teeth when we went in for his one year
check up. She said not to worry about it, it didn't look like
anything. She knew I was still avidly nursing him, and we
discussed night nursing etc. I asked if it could be iron or not
enough calcium..? He has never been on antibiotics, went
straight to a cup (no pacifier, no bottle, no sippy cup, no
juice, etc....plus we wiped his little teeth with cotton towels
all the time, and used a toothbrush here and there, although not
religiously). The pediatrician dismissed all concerns. We decided
to take him into a dentist anyway just as he turned 16 months
(couple months later), and were horrified to learn that our child
has severe decay, would need his four front teeth extracted
asap(no chance even for a crown or filling it was already so bad
!). The dentist blamed the night nursing - and we are still
shocked this has progressed to this point ! I had to stop night
nursing immediately. Weaning the day nursings and brushing
scrupulously now. We need referrals for more alternative
medicine type dentists and pediatricians - in order to save the
rest of his teeth. Also, anyone have opinions about general
anesthesia for tooth extraction for a 16 month old ? The dentist
wanted to also put in space maintainers (like little false teeth
on a wire arch cemented to his little molars !) I'm terrified.
please offer any solution-focused advise/ encouragement ! Thank you.
My heart goes out to you-- I had a similar experience when my
son's front teeth went soft and crumbly at age one and I know how
horrifying it is to think that your baby may lose his teeth. The
first dentist I consulted told me that breastfeeding was
responsible and to wean him right away. I did lots of research
and got a second opinion-- in which case the dentist said it is
the acid pH of the mouth that determines decay, and that is a
hereditary and diet issue-- find out which foods are most
alkaline and avoid those that form acids in the mouth. He also
said that lack of sufficient vitamins when the baby teeth were
forming in early weeks of pregnancy (I was thin & vegetarian and
didn't take vitamins until I knew I was preggo) could be a
factor. He advised me to get caps put on but after my son
underwent the general anesthesia the white caps proved to be too
large for his teeth, and instead he got silver caps. This was a
terrible trauma for me, as my adorable little boy had monstrous
metal teeth and people assumed I'd given him candy and junk that
harmed him. I continued to breastfeed him, I just think its too
crucial and that Big Denta is too quick to blame/dismiss
breastfeeding, but I did brush and monitor to get higher
alkalinity in the foods we both ate after that. La Leche probably
has some good info on this. At age 3 he got white crowns (also
under general anesthesia, yes it is stressful but way better than
Your dentist's proposal sounds very invasive and scary, and the
fact that s/he blames breastfeeding without parsing the other
factors suggests you should explore other perspectives and options.
Good luck, and remember, they're only baby teeth, it's not a life
sentence-- my son is now a 12-year-old with a set of strong,
healthy adult teeth that have never had a cavity!
First get a second opinion. It just seems weird that the
pediatrician has such a different opinion than the dentist. The
dentist is asking you to do something so extreme, even a third
opinion might be a good idea.
Wait!!! Don't let them pull the teeth. I went through the same thing with my son
at the same age a few months ago and I also posted frantic to the BPN. I saw a
great dentist on Broadway in Oakland, Dr Denise Bass Allen and she has been
a life saver! She applies a flouride temporary filler that has been able to keep
his teeth from getting any worse while we wait for him to get old enough to sit
through fillings and caps. The filler is orange unfortunately but in the big scheme
of things who cares. It can stay in for days to months and when it comes out
she's great about seeing us right away to refill them. It's very inexpensive and
we don't have dental insurance. Our last dentist told us he had to have his teeth
pulled also but he is just fine now and Dr Bass Allen is confident he can keep all
of his teeth and she is supportive of my continuing to nurse. Good Luck and
Dr Allens # 510 763-2022
This happened to us too. Our very good pediatrician really
couldn't tell us anything about our son's front teeth, which
were also discolored and looked worn down. I also night nursed,
and when I took him to Denise Bass-Allen, a pediatric dentist on
Broadway, she had just come back from a ped. dentistry
conference where she learned that there is a particular type of
bacteria that can be passed from mother to child via utensil
sharing, etc, and some people are more susceptible to it and it
doesn't bother others. But she told me I should not feel guilty,
and that people have been nursing their children forever and
this does not always happen. She was basically saying they are
not 100% sure why it happens to some and not others but seemed
pro-nursing with practical solutions like the rinsing and
wiping, and getting the child to drink water, not juice, etc.
Well, my son had 5 root canals with caps and crowns, and it was
the worst day of my life, not because they didn't do a good job-
they cared for him really well and she did a really beautiful
job. It was just hard to see my 2 year old having to go through
this so early. But his teeth are perfectly healthy now and we
get compliments about our brushing on checkups. Please email me
if you want to talk and I'll tell you all I can. There really
does seem to be a shocking disconnect between pediatricians and
''Nursing does not cause tooth decay,'' one BPN contributor opined
last week. Unfortunately, she is wrong--nursing can definitely
cause tooth decay, especially at night. Just ask my friend with
twins, one of whom breastfed all night long even as a toddler,
and one of whom always refused the breast (he drank a bottle at
bedtime and then slept through the night). The nurse-all-night
toddler ended up with four rotten teeth, and had to have four
crowns put on (under general anesthetic). His twin brother has
never had a cavity. If you're concerned about tooth decay,
don't let your toddler nurse all night long. (I'm not talking
about babies, of course.)
My kids have no cavities
i didn't see your original post but nursing throughout the night
DOES cause tooth decay. at least it did with my daughter. she
nursed several times a night, i gave her the breast whenever she
wanted it. she would fall asleep with a pool of breast milk
dripping from her mouth. by the age of two she had four cavities.
shortly after, i stopped nursing. it's been years and she has not
had a cavity since.
my son, who nursed before going down for the night and once or
twice a night never had a cavity.
I have a 13 month baby that was dignosed with cavity.one of his teeth
is in a realy bed shape.he is mainly nursing but i got him on solids
too.i can tell that he has got another teeth infected,now my question
is does anyone know a dentist with an holistic approach? I took him
to two already but was blamed for not brushing his teeth,which i
started to three times a day,and i have been told to win him from
night nursing. My hurt is tataly broken to see his beautiful smile
and knowing that i damage him with my milk Is there something i should
add to his diet?pherheps calcium is missin?
i am dessperetly seeking for advice
In response to your child with tooth decay. My heart goes out to
you. I would suggest you read Ramil Nagel's work, at
curetoothdecay.com. He's a local bay area dad, who also watched
his daughter's teeth decay and found solutions through diet and
specifically from Weston A Price's work. I believe dentists at
1313 Gilman treat teeth from a holistic viewpoint.
Best of luck.
You should try Marin Dental Wellness. They are all the way in
Corte Madera, but Dr. Brian Smith takes a holistic approach and
is great! They treat cavities with a natural oxygen treatment
that really helps in the healing. His # is 415-924-6551
I would also wean the night nursings if tooth decay is a problem!
Try to wipe the teeth with a toothbrush or gauze of some sort a
few times a day...after meals/snacks and before naps/bedtime.
My 2yr. old son has 8 cavities the pedi dentist say may be due to nursing at
only way to fix the cavities would be to use general anesthesia for the
been to two experienced pediatric dentists and they can offer no other
And they advise I stop Breast feeding. Does anyone know of any other holistic
approaches to this situation??? I am heartbroken, and could really use some
Thanks. Jennifer S.
I'm sorry I can't offer any advice on holistic approaches. However, I
just want to
empathize. I know you are facing a difficult and very worrisome
situation. My 2-
year-old needed a partial root canal (and crown) and 4 other small
cavities filled. I
struggled with the idea of general anesthesia, but ultimately was SO glad
ahead with it. My son was so wary of the dentist as it was. I think he
been totally terrorized and traumatized if he had had any idea what was
during his procedure. Instead, he was blissfully unaware. That night he
''That was a fun trip to the dentist'' because all he could remember was
the trains in the waiting area. There were, of course, risks involved
anesthesia and he had a really hard time coming out of it, but overall the
greatly outweighed the costs for us.
I cannot address the issue of nursing or how your child came to have so
at such a young age. I did want to let you know that I had general
anesthesia on my
child to fill 6 teeth and it actually went pretty well. They squirted
something up his
nose to make him drowsy and then set up an IV for the general anesthesia.
remembers is ''yucky medicine up my nose'' and then nothing. It was
much less traumatic than more recently when he needed one filling and the
it with him awake and scared.
General anesthesia is scary to most people, and nobody wants it
for themselves or their children unless absolutely necessary.
First and foremost I would like to say: Stop breastfeeding! The
child is 2 years old, the benefits go way down after 13 months
of age in terms of the health of their teeth - it actually
becomes detrimental to the child's oral health. If you are not
going to stop at least brush the child's teeth every time after
breastfeeding --- and ESPECIALLY at night. Also floss their
teeth once a day using little kid flossers.
In terms of the issue at hand you may have 2 choices:
1. You can get the treatment done with general anesthesia. it's
scary, but most likely your child will be just fine, and will
have no memory of the experience. It's a one time deal and you
2. You can find a pediatric dentist who will use oral sedation
(where the child is awake, but sedated) in combination with a
papoose board. A papoose board is a restraining device, much
like a straight jacket that holds the child in place while the
dental work is done. 2 or 3 appointments may be needed to
finish the dental treatment. This may be medicaly less scary,
but may lead to long term major dental phobia for your child.
Or you may be lucky and your child may remember nothing anyway.
general dentist and mother
I've heard that letting a baby nurse itself to sleep can lead to a
terrible kind of tooth decay... does anyone know if this happens? My
daughter is 6 months old and has her 2 front bottom teeth. I nurse
her to sleep every night and throughout the night if she wakes, is
this safe? Also, should I be brushing her little teeth yet?
Yes, you should be brushing her little teeth.
Your dentist can recommend a gentle little children's toothbrush.
I nursed (and am still nursing) our almost 3 year old to sleep
for most naps, bedtime and during the night. He was seen by a
dentist at 18 months and just recently and has good teeth, no
cavities. We are very careful to brush his teeth well at bedtime
and don't eat a lot of sugary snacks. We are starting to brush in
the morning as well which I should have started a while ago.
I think a lot of tooth problems are genetic. Also, if you do some
research, you will find that there are groups that support night
nursing. Nursing is quite different from giving a bottle through
I believe we started with just wiping the new teeth with a clean
cloth and after a while gave him a toothbrush to play with and
chew on before we really got going on the toothbrushing.
Supporter of night nursing
This totally happened to my daughter. By age 3 she had two
severe cavities in her front teeth that were attributed to
night nursing -- I nursed her A LOT at night until she was 2
1/2 years old. Because of her age and her fear of the dentist
we had to have her cavities filled using general anesthesia.
It was less traumatic for her, I think, since she was asleep
the whole time, but very expensive and stressful for us. That
said...I am now nursing my 2nd child at night as well. For our
family, the benefits of nursing and co-sleeping outweigh the
desire for a cavity-free child. With our 2nd baby, though, we
are definitely more conscious about brushing his 4 little
teeth every morning. So my advice -- keeping nursing and
Survivor of child cavities
I nursed both my girls to sleep and through the night until they
were both around 2 years old. Their teeth are fine. Mother's
milk has anti-bacterial qualities so I wonder if that helps.
After they started drinking cow's milk (with a little chocolate),
their pediatrician did tell me to have them drink a little water
after a bottle at night. We didn't really start brushing until
about 2 years old.
I nursed my baby to sleep and through out the night all the time and
developed decay. When her first baby teeth finally arrived I did buy
baby ''tooth brushes'' that you stick on your finger so you can brush
their gums and
baby teeth. I don't remember how often i did it. I think it may have
been once a day
at the most. I would just use a very very tiny amount of flouride-FREE
tooth gel for
babies and toddlers and rub it around. It was more to just get her use
to the feel of
it. I did not try to brush right after nursing, because she was always
alseep. And I
don't think i brushed every day either. However, once I started
into her diet, that's when I was much more careful and made sure her
gums got brushed every day before going to bed. I think the starches in
rice cereal, and the sugars in fruit and juices, are more to blame for
decay. I think an early brushing regimin is always important,
as soon as
starchy solids, fruit or juice is introduced into their diet. My
duaghter continued to
nurse all the way up until she was 3 1/2. And during that time she
always woke up
once in the night to nurse. She never got a single cavity. Since she
about 2 or 3
years old she has been seeing the dentist regularly (every six months).
Today she is
7 years old, brushes her teeth twice a day and is still cavity-free!.
Start those good
brushing habits early and get one of those baby ''tooth brushes'' that
you put on
your finger. And enjoy all the nursing while you can, day or night.
What a wonderful
experience and so healthy for your baby.
There are a lot of factors and I am sure you will hear a lot of
different opinions and experiences. Here is some simple advice.
Yes, keep nursing her to sleep as long as you want to, it is
tough enough having a 6 month old and nursing makes life easier!
But it is good practice to start brushing now. When she wakes up
from a nurse induced slumber, give her a quick brushing with a
soft toothbrush and water. If she has a starchy snack or juice,
brush and/or give her water after to rinse. And keep an eye on
her teeth and get her to the dentist if you see anything
worrying. Brushing twice a day should keep the cavities away. Now
is a great time to start good habits.
Nurser and brusher
I'm sure you'll get lots of responses about this. I thought the
same thing, especially when I brought my son to the dentist and
he had three cavities at four years old!! My son's dentist
said, and I've heard this from other sources, that night
nursing does NOT cause tooth decay. True, there is lots
of 'sugar' in breast milk, however, it comes down to bacteria
in the mouth! In other words, a predisposition, which would be
the type of bacteria that is in a person's mouth causes the
weakening of the enamel which then allows an environment to
support decay. Perhaps, this is where genetics comes in b/c
typically, families share the same bacteria by sharing foods,
etc. If you are concerned, you can always sweep through her
mouth with a gauze pad after she nurses....
As far as brushing goes, they have those soft brushes you can
put on your finger and brush your baby's teeth. Also, you can
use gauze (as suggested above) on your finger to brush them.
You absolutely should start brushing them as they sprout out.
You don't need toothpaste yet, just water and the brush or
My opinion on this is purely anecdotally- and not
Here are the anecdotes: A) I have 3 kids all of whom were nursed to
sleep for some
length of time and none of whom had their teeth brushed following
The oldest two started having their teeth brushed at about 2 yrs of age
regular visits to the dentist at 4 yrs. They are now 8 and almost 6
have had one
tiny cavity each. My youngest is 2.5 and has been having his teeth
about a year now. He nurses at night but not to fall asleep, but he
doesn't have his
teeth brushed after nursing. He will go to the dentist for the first
time next spring.
His teeth seem pretty okay. None of my kids are big-time sugar eaters
and do not
consume soda but once in a GREAT while.
B) My best friend has 2 kids. Nursed them both to sleep. Started
when teeth first started appearing. Visits to the dentist began
after the 2nd
birthdays. Both kids enjoy candy (not to great excess, but on a
Both kids have had multiple fillings/cavities at more than one dental
visit. They are
8 and 4.
In situation A, the parents have fairly good teeth histories (the mom
has never had a
cavity ever). In situation B, both parents have difficult dental
My opinion is that the teeth deal is genetic. Yes, a program of good
can really help and is very, very important. But some people are born
teeth and some aren't. Not sure if that helps at all. In your
situation, what both my
friend and I did was nurse the baby and sleep. Brush later.
Many babies are nursed to sleep and nurse during the night.
There are many misconceptions around tooth decay and nursing.
What I have heard is that babies swallow the milk and it doesn't
usually pool around their teeth. Also I have heard that mother's
milk has properties not present in formula, which prevent the
decay. My children nursed themselves to sleep for years, and
have beautiful strong teeth. You can contact La Leche to see
what their latest advice is. I support you in taking such great
care of your young baby.
Nursed my babies too
I've just taken my 21 month old daughter to the dentist for her
first check-up. The dentist was very kind and applauded me for
bringing her in, but also had to tell me that she has the first
and tell-tale signs of tooth decay, probably due to the fact
that not only are we still breastfeeding, but she drinks a lot
of milk and she nurses at night. I have done so many other
things hoping to not add to the potential for early decay. She
does not drink juice and she doesn't drink from a bottle. But,
she is not a good sleeper and I take full responsiblity for our
continued night nursing for all these months. Any advice about
this issue would be so appreciated. Anything from suggestions
on how to stop the night nursing (she pitches the most
unbelievable fit) to what the actual consequences are? I need
to do more research and will continue to talk to my not-quite-
two year old about why the milk at night is going bye-bye.
I nursed my son all through the night until he was three, and
at age 4 1/2 he has 7 cavities. I was quick to blame the
nursing, too, because he doesn't eat much candy and his oral
hygiene is good. I saw two dentists and they both told me that
it was probably genetic. Some kids just get cavities - I know
I did as a kid, and my adult teeth are cavity-free. So if you
want to continue nursing, I think you should do so without
If you want to night-wean for other reasons, here's what I
did: I intended to have an honest, kind-but-firm conversation
with my son about why the night nursing had to stop, and follow
through consistently. It turns out that I am way too much of a
softie for all the crying, begging, negotiating that ensued. I
ended up taking the advice of my kid's dad and a lot of
friends. I put some crushed garlic on my nipples (anything
stinky will do) and told him the milk went bad. It sounds
ridiculous, but it worked like a charm. He moped around some
and I felt horribly guilty for being deceptive, but there were
no tears AT ALL and that very same night he slept through the
night without waking for the first time since birth. We also
had a weaning mini-party a few days later which he liked a lot.
I know how you feel. My son developed tooth decay at that age.
It killed me to see it. But I finally asked myself, what is more
important? One baby tooth or my child's healthy emotional
development? If your child needs that night nursing, you don't
have to let this stop you from giving her the comfort she needs
during the night. You will have people tell you to wipe or brush
his teeth at 3:00 am after a nursing, not practical if you have a
light sleeper. You will have people imply that your toddler
shouldn't be nursing at night or at all at this age. But I hope
you'll consider continuing to nurse your child during the night.
Just see your dentist regularly so he or she can monitor that
tooth. I nursed my sensitive guy until he was almost three,
including night nursings until the very end. He has one filling
and, at four, he is sleeping through the night in his own bed
almost half the time. He has a beautiful smile. Good luck.
Hi, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's signs of tooth decay.
I night-nursed my daughter until she was 22 mo; I think that the
reason she didn't ever experience dental caries was because of
her (and my) diet. When she was about 18 months old I found out
about Weston A. Price, DDS, a dentist from the 30's who wrote
''Nutrition and Physical Degeneration''. As a private-practice
dentist, he wondered why in the 20 preceding years he had seen
such a jump in tooth decay, especially in children, and wondered
if traditional societies had the same problems. He went out and
studied them all over the world, and the result was the
aforementioned book. Essentially, Western processed foods
(including refined flour and sugar, and pasteurized milk) are
responsible for many of the health problems we take for granted,
including tooth decay. The most isolated traditional peoples had
virtually no tooth decay, even though they didn't brush their
teeth, and similarly low levels of orthodontic problems or
degenerative diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, or other
immune system problems. Their diet of course had no processed
foods in it, but also had lots of things that we have forgotten
or have been told are bad for us, such as fermented foods and
animal fats (the key being that these animals were not raised in
factory conditions like the bulk of ours are).
Anyway, it's a bit much for someone just starting out; I
recommend the www.nourishingourchildren.org website for a good
overview of what dietary changes would be most beneficial for
kids and why. We have been eating much better since we started
reading about this stuff and putting it into practice, and my
daughter (who was somewhat thin at age 15mo) is now strong as an
ox at age 3.5. I'm currently 38 weeks pregnant as well, and I'm
interested to see the difference in a baby that's received
superior prenatal nutrition.
Good luck to you and your family.
This same thing happened with my third child. I breastfed all
3 the same, including on-demand breasfeeding at night, but only
the last one had any dental problems. I just had to quit cold
turkey (it is actually one year ago today as I write this).
She protested for about 2 days, but then forgot about it and
hasn't looked back since. I had to go this route because I
brushed her teeth 2 times a day and had them fixed my the
dentist but it still wasn't enough. I even had to put flouride
directly on her teeth so I decided her dental health was more
here's what we do: i've noticed that when i brush my kids' teeth,
if afterwards i use my finger to scrape near the gumline
of the inside front teeth and the molars, i almost
always can scrape off more plaque. so i wipe with a
baby washcloth as the first step in cleaning (making
sure to get down near the gumline), then floss, then
brush, then swish and spit a couple times. my kids
have learned to tolerate it. we do this at bedtime,
and just brush/swish after breakfast.
also the probiotic L. Reuteri has been shown
clinically to stop the growth of S. Mutans, the cavity
bacteria: ''Lactobacillus reuteri in bovine milk
fermented decreases the oral carriage of mutans
if you search in the LLL website, they have a couple of articles
that you can view online.
My daughter has 5 cavities (2 behind her front 2
teeth, 1 on the front, and 2 on 2 separate top
molars). She's 26 months old and we are looking for a
gentle dentist who would help us to fill her cavities
without using anesthesia. We've been to a pediatric
dentist and the first thing they told us is that they
want to sedate her for the procedure, that I can't be
with her in or during the process, and to stop
breastfeeding her. WE're looking for a dentist who
will look after her emotional needs as well as
physical. She's very afraid of the dentist and I
think that if we found someone who paid a little
attention to her and spoke her language (and let us
take the time we needed for her to be comfortable
there) that she might be a little bit more
cooperative. Does anyone know of a dentist who has who
could help us with our situation? What have others
done who've had a little one with dental caries? Any
help would trully be appreciated.
Look into laser dentistry. It is a quick and anesthesia-free way of repairing cavities. Drs. William Gianni and William Tenant in Berkeley do both laser and conventional dentistry. I went to Dr. Gianni for the first time this summer and it was great. No drills, no anesthesia, no pain. Removing the cavity with the laser pulse took less than a minute. It didn't hurt at all. It just felt like a little tap-tap-tap. The longest part was filling the cavity, which was only about 5 minutes. I don't know if they work with children so you should give them a call to find out. Dr. Gianni was very nice and I can imagine he would be good with children. (510) 848 3143.
Vivian Lopez, D.D.S. and an assistant name Tanya, are amazing! They really connect with my son and take their time and talk to him in a child appropriate way. We just go for regular check ups with them, but at 18 mos, he had about the same amount of decay as your daughter. Email me for more info.
Vivian Lopez is on Telegraph near Ashby in Berkeley.
I was saddened to read how your daughter already has cavities. I highly encourage you to read about Dr. Weston A. Price's work as he proved how the teeth reflect overall nutritional status. He was able to remediate shallow cavities in children with the use of vitamin A rich foods and raw milk. For information on both, go to www.westonaprice.org and www.realmilk.com.
As for dentists who can help, I suggest the team at 1313 Gilman (Rusta, et alia).
They are biological dentists and have expertise compatible to the principles of WA Price. They are especially good with kids.
Nori Hudson, NC
We experienced the full range of dental traumas when my daughter was that age (an extraction, restraints, verbally abusive dentists, sedation, etc.) Sedation with a low dose of valium paired with nitrous, administered by a reputable pediatric dentist, turned out to be the best approach for us. Mostly because my daughter did not have to be restrained and had only fuzzy memories of the experience after the fact. Once she was afraid of the dentist, nothing else really worked. After we got the initial work done, we went back to working with the dentist on helping her feel better, and after a few years she was no longer afraid. As for the dentist's advice to stop breastfeeding, I listened to what they had to say, did a little
reading, and quietly ignored it. I hope someone else will know
the dentist who can calm her without meds, but this was my experience.
I'm sure I won't be the only one who suggests you find a NEW DENTIST! There are many pediatric dentists out there who do not blame breastfeeding for everything, and will welcome you to stay with your child during any procedure. Check the archives and ask around.
When my then 28-month old son was found to have 8 (!) cavities, we were referred to Dr Edward Matsuishi in El Cerrito. Dr. Ed was very understanding and kind to me and my son, and did NOT recommend eliminating breast-feeding (which I did then and continue to do now -- though I HAVE given up night nursing!). I appreciated his advice, which was mainly to cut out sugars from the child's diet, esp juice, but keep breastfeeding as long as the milk doesn't ''pool'' in the mouth -- don't let the child fall asleep while nursing!
As for anasthesia, I invite you to re-think your position on it. Though we were scared at the prospect, the thought of putting my son through multiple visits to have fillings was unthinkable. The anesthesia was actually BETTER in that the work gets done all at once, and the child has no memory of it (and thus does not compound the fear of dentists).
Dr. Ed hires an outside pediatric anasthesiologist from Children's Hospital to administer the anesthesia. They are well-trained in anasthesia and ER procedures, and do this all day every day. We were there with the anasthesiologist and our child in the waiting room, while he administered a sort of Valium-like drug in my son's nose (he did this cleverly and non-traumatically -- the idea is it relaxes the child before the actual anasthesia is administered). We did sit with our son during the first part of the anasthesia, until he fell asleep. Then we left the room.
Afterwards, he was given to us to hold as he gradually woke up.
We were very happy with the results, and are so glad we did it this way (and believe me, we were VERY concerned). Good luck to you.
I highly recommend the pediatric dentist office of Dr. Katsura & Miahara. I don't know what their policy is for anesthesia for younger kids, but my 4 year-old has had her cavities filled (using just local anesthesia) in their office, and they are excellent, very family-oriented. Parents can go in with the kids, and sometimes they can actually lay down on the chair and hold the kid on top of them. Their office is full of toys, pictures, books and nice stuff that really attracts the kids and makes them feel more comfortable.
On the other hand, my daughter also had dental work done when she was 20 months-old (at a different office) and they gave her a mild sedative, which really didn't do much. She was wide awake and fully aware for the whole time, and, needless to say, it was very traumatic both for her and for us hearing her cry so hard. I really wish they had given her full anesthesia.
In summary, I do advice that you take her to a pediatric dentistry office, it's worht paying the difference, and trust what they think is more recommendable for your kid (w/ or wo/ anesthesia).
I recommend the practice of Wampler et al. Our daughter started there (with cavities) at about 18 months. They worked with us and particularly with her to help her get comfortable. Also they were open to our preference to do less permanent ''scoop and fill''
filings, which are less durable, but less invasive. They started out ''counting her teeth'' and ''painting'' them with flouride varnish, and only did the scoop and fill when she was comfortable enough to tolerate it. She also sat on mommy's lap, and at first we practiced at home with a mask and gloves the dentist gave us, then daddy ''helped'' at the dentist and she would open wide for me and let the dentist work. These last parts were more our inventions then something suggested by the dentists, but they were always willing to work with us.
BTW, we paid out of pocket to go to Wampler et al., after trying the UCSF clinic and having a horrible experience with a pre-doc student with no pediatric training. There is considerable difference in what different pediatric dentists think is ''necessary'' as far as general anesthetic, strapping the kids to boards, etc. It's worth it to find someone to work with who is gentle and willing to work with you, so your kid forms a good feeling toward the dentist. Our daughter is now (at age 7) a model patient at a clinic which accepts our (Healthy Families) insurance and even gets excited about going to the dentist.
Our pediatric dentist is WONDERFUL. Dr. Miyahara, 528-1526 or 848-6494. She is extremely sweet and gentle. I hear the other dentists in the practice are also great.
However, I can't imagine she or any other dentist could possibly fill cavities in a toddler without general anesthesia. My children have not had fillings, but I've had many myself. Have you had fillings? The sound of the drill alone would make it impossible for my children to sit still and if they didn't I imagine they could get injured. Additionally, the pain involved in filling an unanesthetized too would be unbearable for a child. It is for me as an adult. I think the best to hope for is a local rather than a general anesthetic, but I believe even then the situation (noise,
intrusion) would be intolerable for most small children and their consequent agitation would make it impossible to fill a tooth safely.
My five year old just had to have a cavity filled and our dentist recommended that he go ahead and fill it without anaesthetic, because the pain of the injection and the pain of the procedure would be roughly equivalent (the cavity was shallow), and our son might not be willing to let the doctor proceed after he put the Novacaine in.
I let him proceed, and my son, who is very sensitive, came through with flying colors.
I would highly recommend our dentist (mine and my sons') for gentleness and caring. His name is Eric Citron. (510)849-1660.
It sounds like what you are dealing with is as much a values conflct as one over appropriate medical care. It would probably be worthwhile for you to talk to several dentists to find one with whom you feel you can communicate better than your daughter's current dentist.
Our daughter sees San Francisco pediatric dentist David Rothman, and has since she was a toddler. I think she gets excellent care, and she loves going to the dentist. Our situation is somewhat different from yours in that she has never had a cavity so we've never had to face the issues you are facing, but I've found that Dr. Rothman shares my family's values which makes everything much easier. He has two offices, one on Union St. and one on Ocean Ave.
I take my 12 year old and my 26 month old to Dr. Leticia Mendoza-Sobel
on Grand ave. at the Oakland/Piedmont border.
She is the best!
When my 12 year old was about 3 we had a horrible experience with a
doctor that reluctantly let me in the room during the procedures (8
cavities.) When I took her to Dr. Mendoza she first did a series of
''behavior modification'' appointments where she had us come in when no
body else was in the office just to talk to her about the office and the
equipment and the procedures and encouraged her to ask questions and
just got her to feel very confortable. They always asked my daughter if
she wanted me to come in with her. Dr. Mendoza invited us to ''behavior
modification'' as soon as the second child was 6 months old and now both
my kids look forward to going to the dentist. I know she is there only
part time now but I understand that her practice partner Dr. Negron is
pretty good too.
I have a 27 month old boy who still nurses to go to sleep at
naptime and at nighttime 2-3 times. My question is for those
mother's who nursed this late and later and if their child got
decayed teeth because of it.
A dental professional freaked me out today telling me that it
causes decay and she sees it often. She says it causes
decay as much as milk bottles at night do (bottle mouth)
She is a teacher at the Dental School of the Pacific.
Also, when to send your child to first dental visit.
worried my baby will get decayed teeth and then that'll really
be fuel for those, like my mother, who think I'm nursing to
We have 2 little ones who nursed until age 4 years (night, morning, during the
night), and both have gorgeous teeth, no cavities, and even after injury
( smashing the front teeth due to bad falls, to the point of almost losing them)
no problems. we recommend also our very responsive and supportive dentist,
dr. vivian lopez (on telegraph). our weanlings are now 4 and 6 years, and
doing great. good luck!
Your child nurses more than either of my did (do). My son
nursed until 3+ and his teeth are fine. My daughter now 2+
still nurses and her teeth are rotten. She has had one tooth
pulled, two root canals with caps, and cavities. My advice is
to keep nursing when your child is awake but stop at night just
in case that is how the rot happens (dentist advice). La Leche
Leauge says that kids will get cavities despite nursing not
because of it. Let a dentist have a look and go from there....
My older daughter nursed until 27 months, and had 4 cavities
before she turned 3. Some of my friends have kids who nursed in
a similar pattern and have absolutely no problems with their
teeth. So yes, it can happen. For us, I'm pretty sure that
halfhearted brushing and middle-of-the-night doses of Advil when
she was teething were both contributing factors. Your post
doesn't say whether you're religious about brushing, but I'd
highly recommend that.
27 months isn't too early for a dentist visit. My daughter's
first visit to our family dentist, Dr. Meeta Doshi, was
completely non-traumatic. She gave my daughter a ride up and
down in the chair, set her up with sunglasses for the bright
light and a toy for each hand, and ''counted'' her teeth while
checking each one. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes,
and my daughter (2 1/2 at the time) thought it was fun.
With my second child, I'm still doing some night nursing, and brushing teeth. So far so good.
Maybe you need to find a new dentist?
My daughter still nurses herself to sleep after five years
(plus a lot of night-time nursing until age 4 or so).
Although she did have one small cavity at 2 and another at 4
her dentist specifically said that her night nursing is
probably not the cause--- he thought it was most likely genetic.
Apparently, bottle-caused tooth decay has a specific form (I
think it occurs behind the front teeth); he said he'd never (or
rarely?) seen it in nursing kids. After the second cavity, he did
seal her back teeth with some kind of sealant; no cavities for
the last 3 checkups. We moved here only recently, but I imagine
there must be some nursing-friendly dentists around the Bay area!
I'll be reading the posts to find out myself!
I nursed my first for 2.5 years- day and a lot at night, and he
has perfect teeth now at 5- no cavitities. I was pretty lax
about brushing his teeth until after I stopped nursing, but now I
am pretty strict. However, I have a friend who also nursed a
long time, and her kids teeth did decay. I think part of it is
genetic. So, try to brush once a day, and don't worry to much.
It seems like all health care professionals are against long
nursing, and I think mostly because they do not have a lot of
data, and they guess. Dentists- FIND A PEDIATRIC DENTIST. I
like Wampers/Katsura. They start at 3 years old- but will see a
2.5 year old if you are really worried. Trust your instincts.
I nursed my twins until they were 27 mos. too; day and at
night. One of my boys did have two cavities in his molars
while the other one didn't. I personally feel that this was
caused by incompletely closed molars which I had as well as my
mother. Especially since only one child had them and not
both. There was an article in Mothering Magazine that came out
around Sept/Oct 2002 that aruged against the notion of nursing
causing cavities. It made me feel a lot better. Don't other
mammals nurse their young when they have teeth? Why should it
be different for us? Read the article if you can get ahold of
it. That's the magazine I go to for support on many of the
less common child rearring practices such as co-sleepnig and
nursing a toddler etc...
Dentists often blame nursing when a child has dental caries. This is
simply not true. Go to lalecheleague.org and find good support and
additonal information on the subject of nursing and dental caries.
Usually genetics plays a stonger role in dental caries than anything
else. I am a LLL Leader and Lactation specialist. and know this to be
true in most cases.
It's genetic so nursing is not to blame; decay would happen
anyway. My older son had cavities and my younger did not, and
the younger actually nursed longer (stoppped at age 4). So find
a nursing-friendly dentist (wasn't there a discussion on this a
little while ago?) to fill the cavities, and brush a lot. Oh,
and no sugary or starchy snacks (in our case, I think
jellybeans played a role). By the way my dentist is not a
nursing advocate so I would just smile and nod a lot when he
was telling me no night nursing, then just continue.
From what I have learned and studied, the nursing at night equals
cavities position is actually a myth, and unfortunately one that
many dentists and even pediatricians tout.
If you were to see a picture of the nipple while breastfeeding,
you would see that your nipple goes way back past the teeth area
of your toddler's mouth. I know it's hard to believe that it
stretches back that far, but it does. The milk doesn't ''stand'' in
the mouth as your dentist may have told you. This is La Leche
League's stand on the issue. As they state in ''The Womanly art
of Breastfeeding,'' ''Studies have shown that breastfeeding
itself doesn not cause tooth decay.'' In fact according to one
study they cite, breastfed children ''had lower levels of decay.''
Good brushing is strongly recommended. I would suggest that if you
are concerned enough to stop nursing, than I would contact La
Leche League for yourself and ask a specialist.
My son is two and a half and we have had absolutely no
problems, even though my pediatrician recommended I not nurse at
night, which sent me on my research. Luckily Aidan loves to brush
his teeth, which is great whether nursing or not. My dentist
recommends ''brushing'' with a baby's wash cloth which is a great
supplement to Aidan's ''brushing.''
Good Luck, hope this helps... decisions decisions decisions....
I nursed my son until he was about two-and-a-half years old.
From what I remember reading and hearing at the time (this was 2
years ago) nursing to sleep did not pose a significant risk for
tooth decay as bottle feeding does. First of all, your
breastmilk does not tend to pool in his mouth because he has to
use suction to get the milk. Second, I also seem to recall
hearing something about the nature of the sugars and enzymes in
formula that may be different than/more harmful than breastmilk.
Try looking for information from La Leche League.
With that said, my son did develop several cavities at an early
age. All of them are in his molars and every dentist that we
have seen over the last 5 years have explained that for some
reason his molars are not completely covered with enamel. This
would have happened during pregnancy. Even the dentist we saw
when I noticed his first cavity at age two assured me that
breastfeeding-to-sleep was not the culprit.
If you are still somewhat concerned about your sons teeth, maybe
you could try to be sure he swallows, to get rid of any
breastmilk in his mouth, before you put him down or leave the
room. Congratulations on your dedication to breastfeeding!
Help! My 15 mos. son has multiple chipped teeth (due to weak, decaying teeth)
and dental caries. I feel like a terrible parent. Well, I guess I really am. I haven't
stopped or cut down on the night nursing, not even wiping his teeth after each
nursing (he hates anything near his mouth and cries like Billy-o whenever we
brush his teeth). After our visit today to the dentist, the dentist finally said that
the one thing in common with all babies with such decay problems is night
We also haven't been regular about his brushing. We've been making a big deal
about tooth brushing - and hang out as a family brushing our teeth. My son
has a sign for tooth brushing and will happily puts the brush in his mouth now
and move it around. The problem is that we need to brush his teeth and he
hates it. It takes two of us - which limits the opportunities - and we have to
literally hold his arms down to stop him grabbing the brush out of his mouth.
He cries and tries to keep his mouth closed. Everybody says kids cry when
having their teeth brushed, but this seems extreme. We hate doing it and I'm
sure my son has picked up on all our mixed feelings. My husband and I also
get quite tense with each other during these brushing sessions which only
makes things worse. I really wonder if I should see if I can hire a dental
hygenist or childcare expert to help for a few weeks until we get this figured
out (it would probably be cheaper than having even more major dental work to
do in the future). I just ordered a video on tooth brushing techniques from a
dental school so maybe that will help.I don't know. The dentist says its a
matter of will power and I guess I'm failing. I am so depressed right now. I
know they're baby teeth, but teeth are so important for chewing correctly,
speech development, and general self-confidence about smiling and
appearance. Any suggestions welcomed about who I might get to help with
tooth brushing, tooth brushing techniques, and night weaning welcomed.
I'm sorry to hear about your child's teeth. Don't beat yourself
up about it too much. There's nothing you can do to change the
past, and you are obviously committed to preventing further
Have you tried a battery-powered brush? They make some for kids
that have small, circular rotating heads. I find them to be the
easiest shape for brushing. Also, if I start out with the brush
off, when I meet resistance, I turn the brush on and then
sometimes baby opens his mouth (I think it tickles) and I can
reach some interior teeth too.
Does your child have any interest in holding the brush himself?
I give him a different brush that he likes to kind of chew on
and I try to manipulate it to do some brushing when he's
I would try to keep this as ''fun'' as possible. I know it's a
horrible struggle for you, but I'm not sure if holding the kid
down is going to work in the long run. Kids can be really
stubborn and I'd be wary that you are going to create additional
problems down the line if brushing is always a trauma for your
And finally, are you working with a good pediatric dentist? I
would highly recommend Dr. Katsura (just off Solano Avenue in
Berkeley) if you are looking for one. He is really gentle with
kids and relates very well to them. Good luck.
That sounds like unusually high levels of tooth decay in a child
who lives in a house with ''aware'' parents! I night-nursed my
daughter for much longer than 15 months and she has no sign of
tooth decay and gets high marks from her dentist (she is almost
4 years now). Perhaps much of it is genetics? Perhaps there
are other factors contributing to the decay? Have you examined
the snacks that your child gets? Our daughter's dentist gave us
a list that essentially wipes out crackers from the snack
options as well as juice and the more obvious items like sugary
fruits/candies/etc. If he is sucking on goldfish crackers all
day, that could be a major source of decay.... As far as
brushing is concerned, we started our daughter around that age
with brushing and started flossing at 2 years. She rarely
fought it and generally puts up with the whole routine. A lot
could be temperment, but also making it ''enjoyable''. Have you
tried finding a comfy place for him to lie down while you do
it? What about picking out some special kids music to listen
to? Have dad lie next to him and read a book that he can see?
Let him play with a flashlight on the wall? Maybe he could
brush a teddy bear's teeth first, or pick a flavor of
toothpaste. I can certainly recommend our dentist - Dr.
Matsuishi in EC. He's a peds dentist and his office is very
friendly for kids. Good luck!!!
You're not a terrible parent! Banish that thought from your
mind!! As far as I'm concerned, night nursing is good parenting.
The tooth decay at age 15 months seems more a factor of genetics
and bad luck than anything else. It's rare for a child that
young to have tooth decay, even if they are night nursing. So
please don't blame yourself.
Brushing toddlers' teeth is incredibly, incredibly difficult. I
have a 2 year old that acts exactly the same as yours - nothing
seems to work to get him to let me brush his teeth, except pure
perseverance, stubbornness, and a willingness to do something
that he hates. I can completely understand that it is hard to
make yourself do it. That said, it does need to be done. Making
it absolute solid routine that teeth get brushed every morning
when you wake up and every evening before bed, may make it easier
for you rather than harder... he may realize it's inescapable.
Once he knows for sure it will happen whether or not he
struggles, he may give up the struggle.
For the techniques... some of these have worked briefly for us,
and some have been suggested to me but haven't worked, but they
may work for you. Distract with funny noises, songs, tickling,
etc. Start a routine of singing the same song every time and
only sing while he's letting you brush - make the song last a
couple of minutes, and he will eventually get to know that when
the song is over, brushing is over. Ask him to roar like a lion
or bear, or to let you see if there are any monkeys in his mouth.
Get him a couple of interesting-looking or electric spinning
toothbrushes and some good flavors of toddler toothpaste, give
them funny names, and let him choose which to use each time. Let
him brush your teeth while you brush his. Give him a sticker if
he lets you brush his teeth. Talk to him about ''cavity bugs'' and
that you need to clean them up, and that not cleaning them up
means that his teeth may hurt later. Pretend that the toothbrush
is something that he likes - a train, a vacuum cleaner, a kitty.
If he's teething, ask him to open his mouth so you can have a
look at the new teeth he's getting. You could try taking
something away if he doesn't let you brush, like a favorite
toy... I haven't tried that one.
If you want to wean at night, it may be difficult if you are
cosleeping. If he's in his own crib or bed, you can start a
pattern that he doesn't come to your bed until it gets light out,
or after a certain time in the morning. If our son wakes up in
the night, my husband goes and sleeps in his room on the floor.
You might try an electric toothbrush to help get your son to
brush - our 15-mo son clamps his mouth shut when we try to use
the manual toothbrush, but loves the electric one to the point
of asking to have his teeth brushed even when he doesn't need
it. I think the vibration feels good on his gums. If you don't
want to shell out for a big electric toothbrush, you could try
the Crest ''Spinbrush'' or something similar.
My daughter had oral surgery at 2 1/2 and my son had oral
surgery at 18 months and age 2 and will probably need it again
soon. It's horrible. You can't both be home every time you
want to brush his teeth. To brush my 2 1/2 yr old's teeth, I
sit on the bed with my legs stretched out in front of me,
position him so that his head is toward me and my legs are
holding down his arms. That way I have one hand for the
toothbrush and one hand to open his mouth. Needless to say he
hates it. So do I, but I've gotten used to it. I wonder if I
was less brutal if he would be less resistant by now. But I
have no choice; I have to do a good job each time I brush his
teeth. The teeth, the night nursing, the dentist.. it is all
the biggest stressor in our marriage. It's so discouraging.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that my daughter, now 5,
can brush her own teeth, floss, and swish around flouride
rinse. Her teeth are all coated, and we get regular flouride
varnishes, and she's only had one cavity since the oral surgery
at 2 1/2.
Try and get the January and February, 2003 editions of the
Journal of the California Dental Association, which has
excellent information on taking care of your teeth.
Feel free to email me.
My son didn't like me brushing his teeth at first. He loved
chewing on the tooth brush and it seemed like at first, I held
him down EVERYTIME and he screamed EVERYTIME. Then finally I
said, 'If I can't brush your teeth then you can't have the
toothbrush to chew on.' He tried me once, I took it away and
ever since it has been pretty easy. Sometimes I tries to fight
with me but I just say 'do you want it when we are done?' and
then he cooperates. I try to do everyday morning and night,
night is easy b/c it is with the whole bath thing. Hang in
there. I use to let him chew on the toothbrush we were using,
then I got smart and got him a different one. now I use a
crest spin brush to brush his teeth and he chews on the regular
one when we are done. he just turned 2. Good Luck!
(See Dentists Favorable to Breastfeeding
for the original question.)
Whoa, this is such a hot button for me. I have the same
experience with my son. The brown stains on his front teeth were
the beginnings of dental carries. I did have the offices of
Wampler, Katsura, et al. paint on the flouride to help
strengthen them. On my second visit I clearly
said that if they gave me any grief about it I was going to find
another dentist. Here is my somewhat educated opinion on tooth
decay. Decay is caused by bacteria. Bacteria needs food (sugar)
to to grow, thrive and do it's job of attacking the tooth. There
is sugar in breastmilk as there is sugar in bread, crackers,
cow's milk from a cup, etc, etc, etc. During the day our saliva
helps to wash our teeth and help slow the bacteria growth but at
night our saliva is reduced by 80% so that we don't drown. So
any sugar from any source left on the surface of the teeth will
lead to decay. When a child is actively removing milk from a
breast the nipple is way back in the mouth and the milk runs
down the throat. It does not pool in the mouth like it can with
a bottle. If a child is just leaving their mouth over the nipple
and not actively sucking some milk may be pooling. However,
breastmilk has antibodies and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
properties. This is an added benefit in fighting decay among all
it's other varied benefits. So the only true way to help prevent
decay is to agitate the bacteria through brushing and flossing
any teeth after eating/ drinking before sleeping. Many, many
parents do NOT do this as much as they should whether they
brestfeed or not. Tooth decay is also affected by genetics. I
believe they discriminate against breastfeeding. The only
question they should be asking is ''does your child have their
teeth brushed after eating and before sleeping every night?''
What and when we are feeding our children is none of their
business! Nurse your son as long as you both enjoy it!
My son has stains on
his teeth too. He got them from iron drops (prescribed for
anemia when he was 12 mo.) Some kids' teeth stain more easily.
In January I took him to Dr. Denise Bass-Allen in Oakland when
he was 28 months old -- we were still nursing. I got a bit of a
lecture, but was NOT told I HAD to wean by any means. I really
liked Dr. Denise and she had a good manner with my active
toddler. Her assistant who lead us through our brushing lesson
wasn't as good (even though she said her son was the same age!)
Just getting him checked and told his teeth looked bad, but were
good was worth it. Good luck, I hope your stains are as
benign. You didn't mention your nursing pattterns, but night
weaning might be helpful. My son nursed to sleep at night and
naps until last month when we weaned (not because of teeth
concerns!), but I night weaned him at about 15 months. Try
toothbrush training every day! (We are still working on
it . . .)
I was just informed by my nutritionist that I should cease nursing my 1
year old son at night when he wakes up because it could cause tooth decay.
I'm rather confused by this because all along my lactation consultant told
me it was no problem to nurse my son to sleep. I received quite a response
when I wrote about my son waking during the night like 8 times a night and
the majority of parents wrote about taking him to bed with us, which we
have done and works great for all three of us, we sleep great now! But now
I'm worried about tooth decay. Do any of the parents that responded to
family beds and nursing at night have any experience with tooth decay
because of nursing at night? I'm curious if this really does happen? It
seems like such a natural thing to me to nurse to sleep and seems strange
that it would cause damage to my son's teeth. Anyone have an older child
that was nursed at night that can give me some input? Jena
I, too, was given the admonishments about nursing at night as soon as my
son's teeth started appearing. For the most part, I chose to ignore them.
The decay usually occurs from fluid resting against the teeth, like a
bottle in the child's mouth after s/he has fallen asleep. In my
experience, once he falls asleep, the nipple usually falls out of his
mouth- and in any event, he's not getting milk unless he is actively
sucking, unlike a bottle. Also, he tended to only nurse for a few minutes
before falling back to sleep. Somewhere around 15 months of age, we
started brushing his teeth (using just water and a child-size toothbrush)
right before bed every night. He continued to nurse "on demand" until
around 18 months, when I limited it to right before going to sleep (which
is AFTER his teeth have been brushed) and right before getting up in the
morning- no in-between nursing. He is still on this schedule at a little
over 22 months of age, and so far I have seen no signs of tooth decay or
other problems with his teeth or gums. I agree that the "naturalness" of
nursing (especially given that in a "primitive" human population it often
lasts for about 4 years) seems to make it an unlikely candidate for severe
problems under normal conditions. Anyone have contradictory experience?
there are rare occurences of babies who nurse and develop "bottle mouth", but
it is generally formula that can rot teeth if a child sleeps with their bottle
in their mouth on a regular basis which they shouldn't do just because babies
can choke if they are left with a bottle propped up.
I nursed all 3 of mine during the night and they all have beautiful teeth. I
heard from someone about children who nursed developing bad teeth so, for
awhile I would wipe off the teeth after she fell asleep but, i admit I often
fell asleep too and quit bothering after awhile. I nursed my first 2
children for approx. 14 months each and my youngest for over 3 years.
I did start brushing their teeth (with Tom's natural toothpaste as they were
so young and bound to swallow some) as soon as they got teeth.
there is more on this at: http://www.promom.org/
under Breastfeeding Myths and Realities
Myth #14: Night nursing causes dental problems.
Reality: Generally, the worries about babies getting cavities through
nighttime milk consumption arise from the practice of leaving babies to
sleep with bottles of formula or juice. When this is done harmful
bacteria have unlimited access to these sugary mediums and will thrive
in the babies mouth. The acids excreted by the bacteria cause tooth
decay. Such decay has been seen occasionally in breastfed babies if
these children happen to fall into a small category of people with
easily decayed teeth. For most children night nursing will not be a
problem. One advantage that the human nipple provides over an artificial
one is that it delivers the milk further toward the back of the mouth,
past the teeth. Artificial nipples deliver the milk into the front and
middle of the mouth where it can cause decay. Also, the human nipple
does not continue to drip milk when it is not being sucked. In contrast,
bottles will drip milk all night if left in the bed with the baby.
Reminder: no baby should ever be left alone with a propped up bottle! If
you notice anything strange looking happening to your child's teeth
consult a breastfeeding supportive dentist for help. There are many
articles on this subject available through La Leche League.
My now 5-year-old nursed for 2 years and for much of that time had at least one
middle-of-the-night feeding. He has never had any cavities and his dentist is
pleased with his teeth.
My son has had 16 teeth since he was 11 months (he's now 16 months), so
keeping his teeth healthy is something that we've been concerned about
too. I nurse my son to sleep and we have a family bed, so he nurses
throughout the night when he needs too. He has already been to his
first dentist appointment and has no problems with his teeth. The
dentist strongly emphasizes good teeth brushing habits, but seemed okay
with the baby falling asleep nursing. I concluded, that as long as his
teeth are being brushed well, it's okay for us to continue nursing as we
have been. If you are really concerned, I would consult a dentist.
It is my understanding that what causes the really bad tooth decay is
leaving a pool of milk in the baby's mouth. That's because bacteria love
the milk as much as your baby does, and when they have a good food source
they can multiply over the course of a few hours. It happens most often as
a result of parents propping a bottle up *in* the baby's mouth and leaving
it there for long periods of time *while the baby is sleeping*. (This is
obviously dangerous not only from the standpoint of tooth decay.) I
suppose the same could happen if you left your breast in your baby's mouth
while you both went to sleep, allowing a slow trickle of milk to enter and
pool there over the course of the evening. But if your baby simply nurses
before sleeping, (s)he will swallow most of it and then continue to
salivate, diluting out the rest. Sometimes you might dose off while
nursing, but if you wake up a few minutes later and remove your nipple, you
are fine. Please do not worry about nursing in bed. It is good for your
baby. It is good for you. I did it and mine has healthy teeth.
There was an article in one of the more recent LLL Magazines by a woman
whose child had caries from night nursing. She had a very understanding
dentist and the article talks about how she managed to continue night
nursing while at the same time being cautious about her son's teeth. If
you go to their website and do a search I'm sure you'll find it.
In general though, nursing at night is not the same thing as "bottle-mouth"
because when a child nurses they take the breast deep into the mouth
preventing the milk from pooling at the teeth. So, even though breastmilk
can cause tooth decay, it usually isn't a problem except in those kids that
happen to be more prone to it. Also, many of the advantages of
night-nursing and co-sleeping outweigh the dental risk IMHO.
I nursed my first two children for over 3 years each. They slept in the
family bed and nursed many times during the night. They both have lovely
teeth now--at ages 6 and 9. My third child is now 18 months old, and like
with my other children, he nurses multiple times during the night. At a
recent visit to the dentist we discovered that he has pre-cavity deposits
(white deposit) all along the gum line of his two front teeth. These are
areas that are hard to repair, according to our dentist. The dentist was
very concerned and I felt very guilty. We had been brushing his teeth once
a day. Now we are brushing them twice a day. The dentist also treated his
teeth with fluoride. We'll see if we can arrest the development of the
When I was concerned about night nursing with my first child, I had heard
that you need to have a nursing episode end with a suck (pull nipple out,
child swallows). If the child falls asleep with the nipple in the mouth,
before s/he swallows, then a small accumulation of decay-causing milk will
stay in the mouth. It doesn't need to keep dripping in the mouth to cause
damage--there just needs to be an accumulation. Even though I have known
this, it is hard to implementthis practice when a child has free access to
the breasts all night. While there are nights when he just nurses once and
I am awake, there are other nights when he nurses many times and I am only
quasi-awake. I guess my great survival trait of being able to mostly sleep
through the many nursing interruptions has had its downside.
I don't regret nursing him and will continue. My nights are much less
restful as I try to wake up and "finish" him off before I fall asleep
again. This has been only partially successful as it seeems to have
breeded a greater need--he sucks with renewed vigor whenever I try and
withdraw the nipple. So now he seems to be nursing more than ever. Perhaps
the most striking lesson is that it was fine for two kids and not for the
third. This is consistent with all of the messages that stated that night
nursing is fine for *most* kids. And we can't know our kids
decay-proclivities until something like this happens.
this page was last updated: Dec 7, 2010
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