Booby Traps Series: Booby Traps in the Dentist’s Chair

This post is the 56th in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

“I have to have some dental work done next week, and they will be using local anesthesia. When I called to schedule the appointment they asked if I was nursing, and when I said yes the dentist recommended that I not breastfeed for one day after the appointment!”  – Recent post on a La Leche League forum

Few of us relish going to the dentist, but comments like these show just how stressful it can be to be a nursing mom in the dentist’s chair.

Here are some fairly common Booby Traps moms encounter at the dentist’s office:

“I’m going to give you this local anesthetic, so you’ll need to pump and dump for ___ hours.” 

Pain medications such as lidocaine are compatible with breastfeeding, and there’s no need to interrupt breastfeeding, in spite of what the mother quoted above was told.

“We’ll be using laughing gas, so you’ll need to pump and dump.”

According to Dr. Thomas Hale (author of Medications and Mother’s Milk), “nitrous oxide is “rapidly eliminated from the body due to rapid exchange with nitrogen via the pulmonary alveoli (within minutes). A rapid recovery generally occurs within 3-5 minutes… Ingestion of nitrous oxide orally via milk is unlikely.”

“Breastfeeding?  It causes dental caries, especially if you do it for a long time.”

Breastfeeding isn’t associated with dental caries, a recent study shows.  As the American Dental Association concludes: “A new study in the October 2007 Pediatrics should help to reassure nursing and expectant mothers, as well as pediatric dentists, since it found that neither breastfeeding nor its duration is associated with increased risk of early childhood caries.”

“Unrestricted nursing at night causes dental caries.”

This is more complicated, as the American Dental Association does currently state, “Unrestricted, at-will nocturnal breastfeeding after eruption of the child’s first tooth can lead to an increased risk of caries.”  [The Canadian Dental Association is more measured in its statement:  "Unrestricted at-will breast-feeding at night may increase the risk of tooth decay, although the majority of breast-fed children do not experience this early childhood disease."]

There are a number of differences between night breastfeeding and letting a baby go to bed with a bottle, which is known to cause caries.  The mechanics of breastfeeding are different from bottle feeding.  As this well-researched article from La Leche League points out, when a baby is breastfeeding milk enters the baby’s mouth very near the throat, so it is far less likely to “pool’ in the baby’s mouth as happens when a baby falls asleep with a bottle.  Second, some components of breastmilk may be protective against bacteria that cause decay.  Finally, research has not found an association between breastfeeding and caries.

“Want to whiten your teeth?  You can’t do that while you’re breastfeeding.”

Earlier this year I had my teeth whitened in my dentist’s office, and when I signed the consent form I noticed that there was a warning saying that it wasn’t advised for (pregnant and) nursing women.  I brought it up with my dentist he chalked it up to covering one’s behind.  But I’ve seen moms on various forums report that their dentists recommended against it while breastfeeding.  Teeth whitening is safe during breastfeeding, says Dr. Thomas Hale in Medications and Mother’s Milk: “it would be all but impossible for any [peroxide] to reach breastmilk except under extreme overdose.”

“You’re nursing? Oh.”

Finally, I know that this is asking a lot, but I’ve never once heard a dentist say, “Hey, that’s great that you’re breastfeeding!  It’s really great for preventing tooth decay, for the development of your baby’s palate, for teeth alignment, and general oral health.”  That’s what the evidence supports, but instead of congratulations I only hear objections and warnings.

Did you encounter any Booby Traps in the dentist chair?  How did it impact your breastfeeding experience?


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12 Comments | Last revised on 10/02/2012

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