Update 4/2014: My 22 month old daughter had significant tooth decay on her upper front teeth, likely caused by food and milk being trapped by the undiagnosed lip tie she had.
The top four teeth lost the enamel and much of the dentin on the back surface. The front surface was rough and stained. The dentist said if we had waited much longer, the nerve likely would have been affected. They are now fine, and she is almost 3.5 years old.
What we did:
- We had her lip and tongue ties fixed with a laser eight months ago and I still night nursed up until recently.
- We did three treatments with ozone. (The teeth started hardening by the second treatment.)
- I did my best to keep her on a diet where she ate only whole foods. We tried a paleo / primal diet but it never stuck. (I do not recommend a paleo diet. ) She ate more meat and cheese these past few months, but she also ate whole grains and bread (more on that below). Our diet was by no means perfect. We certainly had a few days where I’d be embarrassed to admit what she ate. (As in processed food, cookies, juice, etc.)
- Every night we brushed her teeth with either a little flouride toothpaste or just some xylitol on a brush, then coated the affected teeth with MI Paste we bought from the dentist.
- We gave her granulated xylitol often after meals.
- I got her to take some cod liver oil about 6 times in the past two weeks, so I’m not sure if that contributed.
Eight months later, I got the news back that all four teeth had hardened – the cavities are gone. Her teeth are thin now, so they may chip a bit more in the front. They also have staining in the front, but the decay isn’t progressing any longer. I’m elated! It’s very possible if we had gone to a less progressive dentist, my daughter would have ended up with a lot of unneeded dental work. As it stands, I’m going to continue doing what we’re doing to try to keep her teeth healthy and prevent the decay from returning.
I believe the key factors in healing her teeth were: Ozone treatments, frequent brushing, xylitol, and a fairly clean diet low in processed foods. Those things and nightly MI paste were the only things we consistently did.
Here is the original post:
My 22 month old daughter has eaten a pretty healthy diet for the past year. She eats a lot of organic fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, salmon and eggs. She never gets any juice or dried fruit, and the “worst” food she eats occasionally is pizza, bread, or organic cheddar crackers. She’s also still breastfed.
But even though I tried to do everything “right”, my daughter’s top four teeth are decaying. The back sides that I couldn’t see have become particularly bad. Based on all the research I’ve done so far, I’ve developed a method to try to heal or halt the tooth decay.
Key Components of Healing Toddler Tooth Decay
Primal / Paleo Diet – Organic fresh vegetables, some organic fruit, pastured meat, safe fish, pastured chicken eggs, raw organic cheese, pasture butter. No or few grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. Obviously no juice, sugar or any processed foods.
- I originally recommended a paleo diet, but I simply can’t anymore. I think our daughter’s tooth decay was largely caused by her lip tie and food / milk getting trapped. She honestly had plenty of grains and bread WHILE her teeth were healing, so my experience doesn’t back up going paleo.
- Brushing daily with the smallest amount of Crest original toothpaste.
- Night weaning – No more nursing at night. We were working on night weaning before this, anyway.
- Cod Liver Oil by Green Pasture (We barely used this, because it made my daughter throw up.)
- Probiotics for all of us
- MI Paste (recommended by the dentist)
- Xylitol (caution- xylitol is very toxic to dogs!)
Normally, toddler tooth decay is blamed on the child falling asleep with a bottle or drinking far too much juice from a sippy cup. Those two didn’t apply to us.
She had an undiagnosed lip tie and possible tongue tie, a very painful (for me) and poor breastfeeding latch and it is possible that milk during night nursing and solid foods during the day just sat on her teeth. There is plenty of evidence that breast milk does not cause tooth decay (pdf), but perhaps under certain circumstances, like with the lip tie or enamel hypoplasia, it can. We’re ready to night wean, but not wean completely.
If you had any trouble breastfeeding or have a child with decaying upper teeth, I suggest checking out Dr. Kotlow’s website and all of his articles. Here is a one with great pictures of ties about why breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt (pdf).
Toddler Tooth Decay – Lip Tie, Tongue Tie and Dental Work Options
We’re having the lip tie and possibly the tongue tie revised with a laser, and the dentist wants to use a glass ionomer sealant over the backs of her teeth. We are using MI Paste on her teeth to try to help build the enamel back up on the front of them, but I’m not convinced this paste will really do anything and it has a pretty bad ingredient list.
If we choose to do the dental work, it will come with a price. The old amalgam fillings contained mercury and emitted it. The newer composite fillings leach endocrine-disrupting BPA (I have a few of these.)
The glass ionomer cement emits flouride and by looking at different studies, like this one, I found that it might emit arsenic, lead, formaldehyde or aluminum! It’s very possible that the small amount she’d have on her teeth and the rate at which chemicals and heavy metals might leach out might make the sealant safe enough to use, but I need to do more research before I’ll feel comfortable. My child doesn’t even own a “rubber” duck because they can leach lead. How can I knowingly have something like this put on her teeth?
So I’ve developed a method to try before we go the sealant route. If I don’t see any improvement in the next month or so, we will get the sealants put in, because I won’t let her teeth just rot in her mouth or have her lose them long before her adult teeth come in.
Healing Toddler Tooth Decay Naturally – Dr. Ellie’s Regimen
My husband and I are currently following Dr. Ellie’s regimen for healing teeth. The ingredients used in her recommended products would normally never make it into our house, but we like how our teeth are feeling so far.
One key component of her regimen is xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar derived from trees and other plants, like corn, and it helps to eliminate the main bacteria type thought to promote tooth decay, Streptococcus mutans.
A lot of the Xylitol being sold is sourced from Chinese corn. We only buy her Zellies brand, which is sourced and made in Europe, or Xylitol products by Emerald Forest / Xylitol USA, which are sourced from and made in the US. There is a bit of controversy surrounding the safety of xylitol, but xylitol candies have been given to children in Europe for years as a known way to help prevent cavities.
Flouride is also extremely controversial, but I’ve done my research and I feel comfortable with using it topically. I don’t believe it belongs in our water, though.
Healing Toddler Tooth Decay Naturally – Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel
I’m currently finishing up Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. He seems to quote the Weston Price people a lot, and I’m a skeptic when it comes to much of what they have to say. His research is not solid, but some of what he says and some of the research he uses is. I can not recommend this book.
He believes teeth can be healed with the right diet. Cod Liver Oil is one of his recommendations. (Can we get the benefits from taking Vitamin D supplements–or getting more sun– and getting more Omega-3s elsewhere? I think so.)
Archaeologists see dental caries in humans that grew grain and lived on it. It’s one of the ways they know they’ve found an agricultural society. The rates of cavities are much lower in hunter-gatherer societies.
I’ve done a lot of research on nutrition in the past few years, and I’m a big fan of the Nutritarian diet promoted by Dr. Fuhrman. I’m going to try limiting grains and see how it goes.
Update on diet: We didn’t stay on a low grain diet for very long. Some families are able to do it, but we weren’t. My daughter pretty much inhaled rice the first time I gave it to her again. We still try to eat whole foods as much as we can, though, and her teeth still healed!