By Kristin Salamon D.D.S.
There is a lot of misinformation circling about breastfeeding and cavities. Unfortunately, there are many dentists out there that believe that if a child has a cavity, and that child is breastfed (especially at night), the main cause is breastfeeding. Here’s the information you need to challenge what your dentist may tell you, if you come across it in your breastfeeding journey.
- Dentist: “Breastfeeding is causing your child’s cavities”
This article published in September 2016 shows that breastfeeding up to 12 months does not increase cavity risk. As babies get teeth before 12 months, it also helps show that breastfeeding isn’t the main factor in getting cavities. In fact, the author even saw that breastfeeding protects against cavities! This article carries significant weight as it is a systematic review, the highest level of evidence out there.
- Dentist: “You cannot breastfeed on demand at night”
There is lack of adequate evidence to show that breastfeeding babies or toddlers cause cavities, night or otherwise. Some studies have found that breastfeeding at night is associated with higher cavity risk, but this does not prove it causes the cavities. Most likely the other sugary foods and drinks toddlers are eating are causing the problem. This article very clearly and nicely lays this out. There is not enough evidence that breastfeeding causes harm to outweigh all of the benefits of breastfeeding for your child.
- Dentist: “You need to brush or wipe off the teeth after every feeding”
This comment probably comes from someone who has never breastfed before. If you can do this, especially at night, more power to you. It will decrease any possible risk of cavities (if there is indeed a risk). However, this is unrealistic for a majority of mothers and I believe it’s unnecessary, especially if there are no cavities detected in the child. Brushing twice a day, especially right before bed will remove any food particles and plaque that can cause cavities. Watch for any changes in the color of the teeth (bright white, yellow, brown, black spots). If you notice any of these, see your breastfeeding friendly dentist right away. There are other, more reasonable ways, to decrease cavity risk and stop decay other than weaning.
Kristin Salamon D.D.S. is a family dentist practicing in Justice, IL. She is passionate about giving patients the information they need to take charge of their health. You can find more on her blog, crunchymamadentist.com.