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Is It Safe To Undergo Teeth Whitening While Breast-Feeding?

Teeth whitening is a procedure which removes the stains of the teeth and makes them whiter. Teeth whiteners are used to give a brighter smile.

Each tooth is made up of a hard outer layer called enamel and an inner layer called dentine. The outer layer protects the teeth from the onslaught of food particles and chemicals and bacteria that are already present in the mouth which feed on the food that gets stuck on the outer layer. This process results in another layer called pellicle film that forms over enamel. The foreign material in the film gets into the enamel layer over the years, because enamel is porous, hence the teeth get stained.

Many people find these stains unattractive. To remove these stains teeth whiteners are used popularly by most individuals.

How do teeth whiteners work?

Teeth whiteners are bleaching agents basically. Most teeth whiteners use bleaching chemicals which are peroxide based. These chemicals start a chemical reaction which results in breakdown of staining compounds. Teeth whitening can be done at home or in the office of the dentist. The dentist usually use stronger chemical than what we get over the counter.

What constitutes breast milk?

Breast milk is the best food for your infant. It changes according to the changing needs of the baby over days and months,  and nothing could be better for the baby than the breastmilk that his/her mother provides. It has all the basic food groups’ essential nutrients, like fat, carbohydrates, protein and water, in addition to minerals and vitamins required by the baby’s growth needs.

The breast milk has millions of live cells including white blood cells, stem cells, and other cells to build immunity.  It has protein to boost baby’s growth and development. Breast milk contains more than many kinds of amino acids, the building blocks of bones and muscles. These amino acids include nucleotides which increase at night to induce sleep in the baby at night.

It also has more than hundred types of complex sugars which act as pre biotic. These probiotics feed good bacteria in the baby’s gut to digest the milk easily. It also has enzymes which speed up chemical reactions in the body. Breastmilk contains hormones which help the baby’s system organs and tissues to work in coordination with each other. It also contains antibodies to protect the baby from illnesses.

Which substances can pass into breast milk?

The breast milk is produced in the mammary glands and the glands take all the nutrients and chemicals that are required from the mothers body. A lactating mother has to be very careful about what she eats and what chemical compounds she comes into contact with. As we know the milk is produced in the mother’s body with whatever the mammary glands take, and whatever is available. There are certain substances that pass onto the baby through breast feed. Caffeine, Alcohol, nicotine, drugs which are banned, and certain medications are known to pass through mother’s digestive system to breast feeding baby.

Can a lactating mother opt for teeth whitening treatment?

Usually the chemicals which are used in teeth whitening do not pass on to the breast milk. Ultraviolet lights which are used in the dentist’s office, if you choose to get your teeth whitened in a dentist’s office, does not affect breast milk, or breast milk production.

When the breast feeding mother whitens her teeth at home, the amount of chemicals on the strip that she swallows will be negligible to be absorbed by the blood stream, and thus it may not reach the breast milk.

As a safeguard, dentists usually ask pregnant women to wait till the baby is delivered for any dental work unless it is an emergency. Going by the same rule, the lactating woman also wonders whether what is not safe during pregnancy is safe now? There are no conclusive findings but opinions are divided. Many dentists feel that there is no harm in going for teeth whitening during breast feeding months because the chemical that is used in teeth whitening is peroxide and it is in such a small amount that it will not have any ill effect on the baby’s system.

The active ingredient carbamide peroxide is made of water with an extra atom f oxygen. It should be kept in mind that too much peroxide on gums causes topical irritation.  Even when it touches the gums in minimal proportion, it will be metabolized in no time. Some mothers prefer to use whitening tooth pastes which again are should not be used over the limit.

Some dentists believe that the sedatives taken during treatment at the dentist are also a minimal risk for it to pass in the breastmilk, because it gets disseminated quickly. There is a lack of enough research to conclusively prove that teeth whitening during lactation are harmful for the mother and the baby. But by the same theory some doctors advise to wait till after lactation to go for teeth whitening – better safe than sorry.

When teeth whitening is done in the office, a whitening gel which is hydrogen peroxide as a solution is directly applied to the teeth. Then LED light is applied so that hydrogen peroxide quickly breaks down and releases free radicals. These then help in removing teeth stains thereby giving whiter teeth to the patient.

During this procedure, and similar procedures for teeth whitening, a little peroxide does get swallowed and gets into the blood stream. It is argued by many doctors to pay heed before embarking on the journey of teeth whitening. After all teeth whitening is not an emergency that a mother would want to risk her baby’s health for.

In conclusion we can say that although a good pearly smile is important to drive away the post partum depression, no mother may like to risk baby’s well-being for it. To be on the safe side, it may be best to wait till after the baby is weaned. Teeth whitening is not an emergency after all.

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