If you breast feed your toddler, especially at night, you may have some questions about whether your child is at greater risk for tooth decay. This is one area where many in the dental world, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, are not necessarily on the same page with the many mothers who continue breastfeeding after their child’s first birthday.
One critical factor in whether or not a breastfed child develops dental decay seems to be the socio-economic status of the mother. According to Hiroko Iida, of the NY State Department of Health, if a breast-feeding mother is poor or Mexican-American, her children are actually “more likely to have cavities than other children.” And the latest data fails to show that breastfeeding provides any real protection against tooth decay.
So what should you do if you are not yet ready to wean your child? You must be extra-diligent about keeping your child’s teeth clean – especially if your child has a night-time feeding. Anything other than water which contacts your child’s teeth can cause decay. Harmful bacteria spread from the parent’s mouth to the child can also increase his or her risk for a cavity so -avoid sharing spoons, licking from the same icecream cone or sharing slobbery kisses. Use a baby washcloth to clean your toddler’s teeth, until you can begin brushing with a small tooth brush and a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. This is especially important after your child transitions to eating solid foods.
Avoid allowing your children access to sugary drinks or sticky foods. Since their front teeth are especially susceptible to decay, be on the lookout for dark discolorations or chalky white areas. Bring your child in to our office for regular appointments beginning at their first birthday, so that we can check for pain-causing decay in the teeth you can’t so easily monitor.