When I got this month's issue of Mothering in the mail a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea I'd soon be joining the ranks of all the breastfeeders out there worrying that we have ruined our precious baby's teeth!
At my 16mo's last well-baby check-up, our pediatrician asked about my baby's nighttime nursing. I replied that he is inclined to "nurse the night away", but that my other two children had been the same and I accepted it as normal. She then went on to suggest night weaning to protect his teeth. I have never been one to consider night weaning and, besides, my other kids' teeth are fine( both nursed night and day well into toddlerhood), so I just dismissed her suggestion. While I had heard that "bottle mouth" could indeed happen in babies who'd never been anywhere near a bottle, I still thought that my baby's risk wasn't one to worry too much about.
Well, just a few weeks later, I noticed two small brown spots on DS's teeth. I had also recently noticed small crescent-shaped white patches on his upper front teeth just below the gums. I thought these must be normal variations in the color of the enamel. But 3 days ago I went to my own doctor, and on the bulletin board I saw a poster about "bottle mouth" with photos of baby teeth in various stages of decay. One photo looked EXACTLY like my baby's teeth
I got right on my computer and came here and did a search of the dental forums. I found LOTS of info, and I've tried my best to make sense of it all. I've also read the current Mothering mag. Still, this is such a complicated issue, and one that seems to evoke so much emotion, that I felt the need to post to try and clarify my thinking.
I must have phoned 25 dentists before I found one that would both see my son and take our insurance. I finally found one about 45 minutes away, and we are going on Monday. I don't know anything about this dentist, so who knows? But at least I got him in with SOMEONE! Most dentists in our area don't take kids under three. And those who do are often booked up until the fall or even later! I even tried some as much as 3 hours away! Anyway, he's booked in for Monday, thank goodness, but I have a few concerns beforehand:
1. I would like to know what I can do for DS while we are awaiting treatment. I asked one of the dental nurses this on the phone, and her advice was to simply wean him. When I said I didn't feel he was ready, she said, "AT 16 MONTHS!!! You don't see babies with BOTTLES at that age! Just put him on a sippy cup. He'll be okay!"
: I have stepped up his brushing. I must admit to not being religious about it before. Oh, the guilt!! Would vitamin/ mineral supplementation be wise? Any recommendations?
2. DS has, unfortunately, had some lead issues over the past few months. We have bought an older home and have done renovations, but despite our taking all proper precautions, his lead level is still "borderline". It is 11, with normal being 10 or below. I know that prenatal exposure to lead has been linked to ECC, but my lead level is zero, so I don't think he was exposed in utero. Have any studies been done linking child lead levels to this condition?
3. I understand that ECC risk is associated with high levels of the bacterium s. mutans, which can be passed from mother to child. I fear that this may be the case here, as both DH and I have untreated decay. We moved to the US from England, having regularly been to the dentist, only to have an American dentist tell us we each had 5+ cavities! We are working our way through them, but I've still got 2 to go. Why didn't I know my cavities could harm my baby? Anyway, assuming we have these "bad bugs", what can we do to help the situation, along with getting the decay treated? What about our kids' mouths? Can we get tested for the bacteria?
4. My hope is to let DS wean himself when he's ready, but if night weaning, or even modifying his night nursing could save his teeth, then I guess I must. He sleeps with me and nuurses as he pleases which, admittedly, can be A LOT. The doc suggested I at least wipe his teeth afer each nursing, but half the time I'm not even fully awake! So this sort of thing would require MAJOR changes for me but, again, I'll do what I must. But, of course, I'd rather not. What do you think?
Well, I've rambled on enough for one session. Forgive me if I'm asking what's been asked before, but my head is fairly spinning.
One thing I can see is that public education on ECC is lacking. I mean, I spend a lot of time and energy researching my children's health, and still, I find I'm seriously uninformed on this important issue. But maybe that's another thread...
Thanks for reading...Willibug