Extended Breastfeeding and Teeth--please weigh in! - Mothering Forums
Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy > Extended Breastfeeding and Teeth--please weigh in!
ilanaRose's Avatar ilanaRose 10:34 PM 12-31-2010

So my toddler (almost 19 months) still breastfeeds on demand. I brush his teeth twice a day--once in the morning after breakfast and once at night but before I nurse him to sleep. He no longer wakes to nurse in the middle of the night...however, I hear so much about extended breastfeeding and tooth decay that I am concerned...


What is going on in the homes where there is tooth decay? Are they brushing their teeth 2+ times a day, seeing the dentist starting at 18 months? Nursing all night long? I want to continue breastfeeding my toddler as long as possible but want to take any and all preventative measures to prevent tooth decay. So what is your routine and have you had problems with your toddlers teeth? Thanks

Jenne's Avatar Jenne 01:37 AM 01-01-2011
Although being pregnant with our first, I obviously haven't personally been there done that...it is my understanding that different mouths/teeth are just more prone to decay. I believe it has to do with the ph balance in the mouth.

For instance, my teeth always require scraping (I don't know the technical term) at my 6 month check ups despite that I use an electric toothbrush and floss daily. My mouth is just prone to plaque. I have soft, deeply pitted teeth that have had a cavity or two as well.

My DH on the other hand never flosses and brushes minimally with a manual toothbrush. He has no tartart build up and has never had a cavitity. He just doesn't have a mouth environment that is friendly to buildup. shrug.gif

Within nursing families I have seen where 2 of the kids had no problems and the 3rd had an awful rash of babyteeth cavities and issues. I really think it is genetic...

treegardner's Avatar treegardner 01:53 AM 01-01-2011


My poor DS just had to have extensive work done on his teeth: 2 stainless steel crowns on molars, several cavities filled, a root canal on 1 front tooth, and both front teeth capped. Our pediatric dentist believes that DS' teeth had demineralization which most likely happened during pregnancy. All the work DS had done was on his top teeth, his bottom teeth are all fine and healthy. We brush as well as can at least once, but usually twice a day, he never has juice, only water and breastmilk, very rarely has sweets, and generally eats pretty healthy, he eats lots of fruit (especially apples) and cheese. However, he does nurse at night, even still. The dentist told me that BF doesn't necessarily cause tooth decay, but that because breast milk is so nutrient rich, that if bad bacteria is present in the mouth, it will feed off those nutrients. Honestly, it was very hard to see my child go through all of that, but I don't know if I would have done things differently as far as breastfeeding is concerned. I feel like it is so important to our relationship and there are so many health benefits for both DS and myself. I may have been able to avoid the tooth decay, but I may not have, and by BF I may have helped him avoid  more serious illnesses and other future health problems. 

Midwitch's Avatar Midwitch 10:32 AM 01-01-2011

Bm contains the protein lactoferrin and the enzyme lactoperioxidase which break down the decay-causing bacteria, and studies have thus shown, that children that are bf on demand, including nighttime, do NOT have a higher incidense of tooth decay. 


My dd, now 4½ years old has never had even a shadow of tooth-decay and she breastfed during the night until she was 3 years. Got her first teeth when she was 4 months. We brush in the morning after breakfast and in the evening before bed. 

PreggieUBA2C's Avatar PreggieUBA2C 06:29 PM 01-01-2011

We have no decay issues at all. I do not believe that tooth brushing prevents decay. I have relatives who brush regularly whose teeth are a mess. I never brush my teeth, nor do my children, and we all have glowing white, tartar-less, thickly enameled teeth. I had a cavity years ago that healed after I quit brushing and started eating lots of fat and animal-derived foods. I also took a lot of supplements to keep myself healthy, but have not needed to take them since quitting grain and dairy. Now, my food is adequate. 


I think health of every part of the human body comes from nutrition primarily, and decaying bones in the mouth signals decaying bones elsewhere as well. Why are those bones decaying? My experience has been that we are what we eat, so nutritious food in-keeping with evolutionary practice, is what makes our bones strong- in the mouth and everywhere else, too. Our food provides the building blocks of our cellular development, and it takes approx. seven years to renew the cellular make-up of the human body. In other words, your body is presently composed of cells made from foods you have eaten up to seven years ago. If you want strong cells, you have to eat foods that provide strong and robust constituents to build those cells. Our bodes are amazing, and they even take substitutes when the real stuff isn't available, but the result is cells that are not as strong as they would be if the real stuff were.


I know my perspective is not popular, but my experience is my evidence. I have also researched this extensively and continue to come to the same conclusion. Pick your teeth if things are stuck in between, but brushing off good bacteria and eating non-evolutionary foods, is just not going to bring about strong bodies. Your teeth will tell you if you're not eating well enough to build strong cells. They are a window into our body composition. If they are decaying, there is a serious underlying deficiency of excellent food.


ETA: Tooth decay may be normal, and many/most people accept it because it so common, but it is not a given. My own body has shown that even when it has occurred due to inadequate nutrition, proper nutrition can and does heal it. Also, tooth decay is traced back to peoples who ate grain and/or were starving. Grain depletes minerals from the body, so even an otherwise adequate diet can be rendered inadequate by eating it. Healthy peoples did not have tooth decay, and we don't have to have it either- especially given the abundance of good foods available to us.

PGTlatte's Avatar PGTlatte 08:07 AM 01-03-2011

Both of our kids had decay from an early age.  DS1 had fillings and a crown by age 2, and DS2 had fillings by age 2.  With both of them I brushed twice daily from the first emergence of teeth, did not feed sugary or sticky foods, used xylitol, had them rinse their teeth with water after eating and nursing, etc.  


They go to a ped dentist.  He is not opposed to night nursing or extended nursing.  He does not believe it causes dental problems for most kids.  However, he believes that when a child has early decay going on due to other factors (genetics, body chemistry, or teeth formed with weak enamel), then having breast milk or anything else in the mouth most of the time will contribute to the spread of the decay.  For kids like mine, he recommended always rinsing with water after eating or drinking anything besides water, every single time, even in the middle of the night. 

averlee's Avatar averlee 05:22 PM 01-04-2011

Both my dentist and dental hygenist have told me:  Breastfeeding provides the perfect nutrition for healthy tooth and bone development. Breastfeeding is excellent for the growth of the child's jaw bones and orthodontics. And breastfeeding contains antibacterial substances that kill the germs that cause tooth decay. 


They also told me, let my daughter brush her own teeth. Don't hold her head and try to jam the toothbrush in there, ever. Let her hold the brush, suck on it, whatever- if bristles contact tooth, that's success. 

dejagerw's Avatar dejagerw 07:23 AM 01-05-2011

Here's some good info on breastfeeding and cavities:




Katie T's Avatar Katie T 05:54 PM 01-05-2011

I nursed ds till he was 2yo. Then he would nurse randomly till he was around 3 to 3 1/2yo. My dentist doesn't start seeing them till they are 3yo but none of my kids have had cavities. My 2 1/2yo still nurses all night long. We brush every morning somedays more depending. But I think diet plays a huge roll along with genetics.