I’m so worried right now. My two-year-old has two really large cavities. My dentist said it’s because I breastfeed her at night. I was curious about that because my pediatrician told me it was the best thing for her, even her teeth. But, now the dentist tells me she needs two possible crowns. He doesn’t think she’ll be able to do it so he’s suggesting general anesthesia. I can’t fathom it would be safe to do in a dental office. I don’t guess I can just leave them, but I don’t want to put her at risk.

Emily

Dear Emily,

It’s completely normal for you to be concerned about your child’s safety. I want to address a few things you brought up to bring you some peace of mind. First, is the cause of her cavities. I think either your pediatric dentist didn’t communicate well or you misunderstood what he meant. Breastfeeding does NOT cause cavities. Your pediatrician is right, breastfeeding is better all around for your daughter, including her teeth.

What he likely was trying to convey is that letting your child fall asleep breastfeeding (or bottlefeeding) is bad for their teeth. That’s because they stop sucking fully and the milk pools around their teeth.

Another issue would be how effectively you’re brushing her teeth. She’s too young to do it well herself even if she insists, as some children do. In addition to the two issues mentioned above, genetics play a factor. Though, the size of your daughter’s cavities means some extra brushing needs to be done.

Dental Sedation versus General Anesthesia

Your dentist likely isn’t doing general anesthesia in his office. It would more likely be done in a hospital with a full complement of caregivers, just like with general surgery. Surgery is routinely done on children while under general anesthesia and though there are risks with everything, is considered quite safe.

Dental sedation is different and would be suggested if your daughter was a little older. It is done in the dentist’s office. This is very effective with slightly older children. They will generally fall asleep but they’re not unconscious.

Either way, make sure someone will be monitoring your child’s vital signs all the way through the procedure.

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