Does Breastfeeding Cause Cavities?
During the Christmas holiday season, my daughter had been having phlegmy cough. Hence, I had been checking her throat more often for redness and inflammation. During one of those checks, to my horror, I saw some yellowish/brownish spots on her upper molar (m2). I started panicking. We never had tooth decay problem with my eldest. Besides, my youngest daughter only had 4 teeth when she turned 1. How could cavities appear on newly erupted teeth? Could breastfeeding cause cavities?
In the next few days, we started brushing her teeth more thoroughly. I also kept on checking her teeth (hoping those brown spots will just disappear!). Well they didn’t. So after new year, I decided to book a dental appointment to get her teeth checked. I first called the dental polyclinic and they suggested we inquire with Health Promotion Board (HPB) School Dental Centre as the dentists there are trained to handle children. I quickly rang up the HPB dental centre to book an appointment. They informed that I have to wait for 4 months to get a slot! I kept telling the person on the other line that I really can’t wait that long. Luckily during conversation, someone cancelled an 1120am slot for the next day! So we decided to go ahead with the available slot.
First dental appointment:
On the day of L’s first dental visit, I’m more anxious than her.
I was very proud of her. She did not cry. She opened her mouth wide when dentist prompted her. I think it helped that the dentist was very charming.
However, dentist confirmed my fear. She had one tooth with 2 tiny holes! Plus 2 more teeth with some decay but no holes yet! I’m in disbelief. Dentist informed me that she will do a filling the next visit. So I was really really horrified. How could a 2 year old sit still to get the filling done? I have read stories in the past about children needing to have general anesthesia and/or ozone gas to complete the dental work.
Prior to the visit, I researched over the internet and stumbled upon this article about Silver Diamine Fluoride. So I asked the dentist if there is a way to delay the cavities instead of doing a filling? She asked the senior consultant if L is old enough to get the Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF). The consultant allowed L to get this option and do a temporary filling. The permanent filling will be done when is bit older (perhaps a year from now or so).
These are the reasons that cause early childhood cavities (as per the dentist):
- Not brushing correctly or frequent enough. Dentist also advised using a pea size of fluoride toothpaste if the child is old enough to know how to gargle and spit.
- Drinking milk from bottle. Need to transition child to use cup as soon as possible.
- On demand breastfeeding cause cavities (especially frequent nursing at night). Dentist advised to wean off child from nursing at night. Else need to drink with water after nursing.
- Eating sweets. Should avoid sweets like candies, cookies and biscuits.
Does breastfeeding cause cavities?
Personally, I think it is not really just breastfeeding at night causing cavities. A couple of factors are at play here – child’s diet and genes. PubMed article concludes “Breastfeeding in infancy may protect against dental caries. Further research needed to understand the increased risk of caries in children breastfed after 12 months.” There is also an article from Kellymom that concludes “Although breastfed children can get cavities, breastmilk alone does not appear to be the cause..”
My daughter had 2 tiny holes in her molar tooth. If it was breastfeeding, those holes should probably appear in her incisors, not molar. However of course (perhaps by default as part of her checklist), the dentist would point out breastfeeding as culprit.
Anyway, I still want to this opportunity to night wean my daughter. She is already 29 months old and eats well. I want my full night sleep back. She will also benefit her growth and development (less dependence on mommy and less night wakings!).
I’m planning to read this book ‘Cure Tooth Decay – Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition’ by Ramiel Nagel. Once I have finished the book, I will share what I have learned on another blog post.
How to night wean your toddler?
I’m planning to use Jay Gordon’s method. I think this is applicable to both bottle and breastfeeding toddlers. The idea is to set a time when no feeding is allowed. In my case, I will still nurse before sleeping. No breastfeeding until morning time. So I’m hoping this means at least 9pm-7am of straight sleep for the child.
Some still nurse/feed to sleep, I would suggest to do night wean first before considering to break the feed to sleep habit.
Ciao! Will update and post once we are successful.
Other useful information:
School Dental Centre:
- Location: Level 4, Health Promotion Board
- 3 Second Hospital Avenue
- Opening hours:
- Monday to Thursday: 8am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 5.30pm
- Friday: 8am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 5pm
- Saturday: 8am to 12.30pm
- Closed on Sunday and public holidays
- Contact number: 6435 3782
- Website: https://www.hpb.gov.sg/schools/school-dental-centre