Teeth

April 26, 2009

Having a six year old means we have increasingly regular discussions about teeth. Most of these conversations center around which classmate has most recently lost a tooth and Noah's growing concern that he hasn't lost one yet. But in the last two weeks the discussions have shifted. After a visit to the dentist, we discovered that Noah has six cavities. Yes, six! My first response after the initial shock was guilt. Guilt that perhaps we hadn't brushed enough especially during the deployment or not doing things the right way. The dentist picked up on this and commented that he must drink a lot of juice. I immediately became defensive and poor Noah nearly started to cry (we don't keep juice in the house, it a special treat at birthday parties, etc and he was upset that he would never get to taste juice again). My guilt then morphed into anger and dismay. How could this happen? We are pretty healthy around here. Snacks are usually fruit, veggies, and cheese and crackers. Drink options are milk or water. My kids are excited if they get a Hershey's kiss every now and then as a treat.etc. We didn't floss every day and yes, there were some nights when tooth brushing got overlooked and even those occasional nights of midnight snacking. But in general we really do try to be pretty healthy. How can my little guy have gotten six cavities?

I am writing this post to share the information I have been reading during the past couple of weeks. Information that I had never heard before. Information that I believe all dentists and family physicians/pediatricians should be sharing with families. In the six years that I have been a parent, no health care provider has ever mentioned any of this and when I recently brought it up with our current dentist. She said "oh yeah, that is a good idea. Everyone should do that". Really? then why aren't you telling everyone? why isn't there a big stack of handouts about this in your waiting room? How did I miss this? So here it is. If you already know this and I am just a slacker mom who is six years behind the ball, please ignore this post.

So here's the deal:

Noah's cavities are probably due in part to my history of cavities. Sharing not only family history but also passing along germs that encourage the growth of cavities. Wish I had been more proactive while pregnant and nursing by taking xylitol regularly and not sharing food.We used to see a lot of xylitol gum in Japan. We chewed it, but never even thought about offering to our kids. Turns out we should have.

Here are a couple of sites that convinced me that we should have been doing this on a regular basis. We have all started using toothpaste with xylitol. We have all started chewing xylitol gum or these candies after every meal. And I am looking into ways to use xylitol in baking.

In addition to xylitol, I am also considering the use of M.I. Paste. Our dentist is exploring options for ordering it. We are also flossing the kids' teeth every night. Brushing at least two times a day. Trying to avoid chewy/sticky/ sugary foods. Use ACT rinse (not Camille who is still too young). And we are in the process of having all of his cavities filled before our move. Some dentists and patients testify to the positive results of remineralization...curing cavities without ever getting them filled. It would be nice to avoid putting him through the procedure but I worry about heading overseas with so many cavities. So far he's had four of the cavities filled. Not fun, but he has done pretty well with it all.

I know this probably isn't the most coherent post, but I just wanted to share our recent experience. I really wish I had known these things (especially the xylitol info) before now.

Some additional spots for information and support:
Ask Dr. Ellie
Alternative Kids Teeth Yahoo Group
Very Young Kids Teeth Yahoo Group

vanessa aka Nessie Noodle said...

Thanks for sharing all this.
I had HORRIBLE teeth when i was little and was a lot like Noah in that my mom didn't let me have 'sweets' or juice.
We always attributed it to the fact that I had chronice ear infections and lots of bubble gum antibotics sitting on my teeth. (my mom felt bad enough that I felt like crud and didn't always have the heart to make me bruch after each dose, esp. late at night)

tell Noah to hang in there! I feel his pain. poor dude.

katy said...

I was mortified too when Eva got a cavity. The Dentist said similar things to me about her diet. I was so upset too. She didn't ASK me what her diet was, she told me to cut down sugar and carbs. Her diet is not perfect, she only eats 5 different things. But it is hardly like she's drinking pop, crunching on Lucky Charms and sucking hard candies.

Her cavity was also attributed to the deep grooves in her 2nd year molars. The Dentist brought this "groovy" teeth issue to my attention at a prior visit.

As for the brushing thing. Yeah . . .I do the best I can. She does too. She's not going to get a hygienist type cleaning 2Xs a day.

I'm so sorry about Noah. Sorry it caused you to feel bad too. Like mom's don't have enough guilt. sheesh. Good luck with the fillings. That's when my guilt really set it.

katy said...

argh. noticed a few typos in my comment. i'm really not dumb. just tired. off to bed.

plumm said...

So! We just had a dentist appt too...and Kai has 6! cavities also. Crazy. I felt horrible just like you...and I got the sugar and juice comments as well. The thing is Luke, who is older, has never had a cavity and they always comment on how clean his teeth are (not much plaque) so how can one of my kids have perfect teeth and the other be in such bad shape?! Also, Kai didn't have much plaque either...so his teeth are getting brushed well twice a day and he is still getting cavities. Your post gives me much to research, which I am quite happy about, as I was kinda at a loss over here. It's nice to know it's not just me. Thanks!

Tara said...

I guess I was aware of the family issue in terms of cavities but the xylitol is news to me!

So far Owen has escaped with no cavities but I'm so glad you shared these tips for preventing them - :)

Mom said...

It is not just your history, so please don't blame just yourself. You can blame me too! I had so many cavities when I was a kid it was embarrassing!
Art told us about xylitol and I bought some when I visited you in Japan, but I don't see it much around here.

Cami said...

Hmmm, so much info. My almost 8-year-old has not lost a tooth yet and has at least 8 cavities and has never successfully completed a dentist visit. The only way we can fill his cavities is to sedate him. We also had to sedate our 5-year-old who had 3. My husband had a horrible cavity problem, but I had hardly any. None til I was 16. But I'm pretty sure it's because they HATE having teeth brushed due to sensory issues. But I'm pretty convinced that some kids are cavity prone and other are not, since my family was a totally mixed bag. No fun, but there it is.

Dana said...

Lucia,
We recently experienced a not so fun date with the dentist as well that resulted in a tooth extraction for Maddy. The guilt continues in our home. I don't know if that is the beginning or end of issues with her little teeth. In the last month she has visited 2 dentists 5 times & we still have to go back to get the spacer for the pulled tooth in about a week. Thanks for the tip on xyilitol. I chew the gum, which is readily available here. I will push it on her now.

Hope you little guy (and you) are feeling better soon.
Dana

Francesca said...

xylitol is news to me too. From wikipedia I understand it to be a regular sugar/sucrose substitute and not some kind of magic prevention, right?
Off to supervise my kids teeth brushing!

Karen said...

One of our friends in Sicily swore by the gum. She's greek and her parents used to bring the stuff packed in their suitcases for them! Seriously, they had cases and cases of it. I have no idea if being Greek had something to do with it or not, I just know they were always passing it out and going on about dental health ;)

Lynnie said...

We chew a lot of Xylitol gum but had no idea that it helped with teeth! I just figured it was better than the straight up sugar kind. I had a lot of cavities as a child, as did my husband. I keep being surprised that my kids haven't had that issue yet. I attributed the fact that they didn't to my superior brushing skills, but perhaps it was the gum! We use it as a bribe to get through the grocery store. I have had cavities that the dentist said, "Let's watch that one and decide whether to fill it at your next visit" that then magically "disappeared." Again, perhaps also the gum? Thanks SO MUCH for the info!

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Glad to see I wasn't the only one in the dark or the only one dealing with cavities. Francesca, read the links especially the ADA one. Xylitol is more than just a sugar substitute. It is does help to prevent cavities for children and adults. Seems counterintuitive to use sugar, but it has do with its relationship to the bacteria present in the mouth. My kids were shocked when I told them had to have candy/gum after each meal! They are more than happy to comply!

Tisra said...

I'd feel like an ambassador, too! Shocking news- and NO!- I'd never heard that xylitol did that! Like the others, I knew it was a low calorie/no calorie sweetener that was helpful regarding blood sugars but didn't realize it could strengthen teeth. Ugh.

You've been doing the right thing as far as you knew- no guilt! In fact, I'd say that your kids have an edge with the healthy eating. And, some of it is just genetics regardless of environmental factors.

lisa said...

Thanks for sharing this!! Do you think any of it could be from (or partially from) the lack of flouride in the water over here?? I stopped giving Nathan the bottled water but maybe I should start again. And maybe I should have been drinking it while pregnant.....ah, water under the bridge now, right?

If you need some gum, I know the 100Y store sells it. :)

Weasel said...

This probably doesn't even need to be said, but it is also extremely important to verify that the dentist you are using is an ACTIVE member of the ADA. We ran into a very unethical dentist at a past duty station that set me into a tailspin of research.

Hang in there Lucia, genetics are a big part of it...thanks to my lovely genetic pool, both Cole and Jack already show sign of battling gingivitis. Fun.

For all the greenies out there, Tom's of Maine toothpaste contains Xylitol.

Tara said...

Thank you for yet another helpful piece of information. With your kids being slightly older than mine, your advice arrives at the perfect time. I've placed my order. My son is going to be shocked when I offer gum to him. Usually I research and research things, but I have the sense that you are even more of a researcher than I am, and it is a relief to simply follow your example.
Tara (in Florida)

tds said...

I found this via a link from Sweet Thing(s) and am so thankful you have posted this info. My 3 yr old had a cavity at his last appt and I felt so guilty wondering what I had done wrong. I am going to get some Xylitol candies (he doesn't chew gum)and add that to our arsenal of prevention. Thank you!

C.M.S. Academy said...

THANK YOU:) I also had a terrible experience with my five year old at the dentist. I brush his teeth twice daily as well as buy the expensive flouride rinse and the expensive animal flossers. We went in for a six month check up and had five cavities. After reading your post and doing some research, I, too bought some zellies and some xylitol in crystal form. Please share your experience with your usage soon:)

Harry said...

Well, I personally believe that cavities in children happen more often than not. But then it all boils down to educating them at an early age about taking care of their teeth. We also need to be their guide, alongside the dentist. Nashville, where we reside, has trustworthy dentists who never fails to give sound advises about preventing cavities.

Speaking of teeth, it's that time of the year when my kid and I should visit one of our dentists (Hendersonville, TN).

Albert bob said...

There are so many good dental care instruments and the most important thing that you should choose good quality dental instruments.Sdi dental

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