“You better show me that big orange bridge.”
We just returned from a whirlwind, too-fast trip to San Francisco. It has been a wildly hectic summer for some reason, and we had to squeeze in a trip to SF to visit an alternative-minded dentist for Claire.
A new kind of “Texas Teeth”
Claire started teething extremely early. Her first two teeth were in by the time she was 3 months old. As such, she didn’t sleep much as a baby. It also meant I didn’t sleep much. Given the amount of stress I was under when we lived in Texas, lack of sleep was not exactly helpful. I lived off sugar, caffeine, and adrenaline for at least 9 months.
The stress of living in a hostile environment coupled with hyper-fluoridated water were primary causes of Claire’s teeth decaying pretty much as soon as they came into her mouth. All four of her front teeth, as well as two molars, began showing decay by the time she was a year old.
I went to a couple of pediatric dentists. I was told that each damaged tooth would either need to be capped or pulled, and that she would need to be sedated in a hospital for the procedures. Estimated cost was $10,000. I was also told to stop nursing her, that it was nursing that was causing her teeth to decay.
There was no way I was going to put her in the hospital, sedate her, and have that type of mutilation to happen unless her life was in danger. I knew there had to be a better way.
After a few days of tears, I found Ramiel Nagel’s book, Cure Tooth Decay. I bought it right away, and started making dietary changes. I devoured articles about Weston A. Price. I read every single thread on Mothering.com’s dental health forums. I decided that the cost and effort of supporting her body’s natural ability to create healthy teeth would be a better investment than invasive sedation, extraction, and capping.
This type of decay was not normal. It was indicative, in my opinion, of underlying issues. I felt that those issues could be remedied somehow. If I opted for what the dentists recommended, the underlying problems would still be there. It would have been a vicious cycle of decay and invasive treatments ad infinitum.
And if her teeth were a window into her nutritional situation, then there was an underlying problem that would cause other health problems I cannot even fathom. I owed it to her to find a way to correct those issues.
This approach wasn’t easy. If you doubt me, try a dose of fermented cod liver oil, x-factor butter oil, in bone broth soup. The easy changes were adding cell salts, MI Paste, and Spry xylitol candy and gum.
Fermented cod liver oil and x-factor butter are not exactly delicacies. I took them along with Claire since we were still nursing. We did that for a few months, until it became apparent that the flavor was too much for both of us. Bone broth soup was barely palatable, so I had to sneak it into other soups. I couldn’t make the jump into eating offal. I don’t know that I ever will!
I became vegetarian for health reasons. I started eating meat again as an experiment, but it wasn’t something I had committed to or enjoyed. Then I found research supporting a “primal diet,” I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple, and I reduced sugar consumption in the house as much as possible and upped our protein intake from grass-fed animals. The primal diet research dovetailed with Weston A. Price dietary guidelines. It all made sense.
You don’t realize how much carbohydrate you consume until you make a concerted effort to keep your consumption around 50 grams per day. I ate a ton more greens, free range eggs, and grass fed beef and dairy. As a vegetarian, most of my carbs were coming from grains. And I thought whole grains were healthier. But after researching, I started soaking and fermenting the few grains we were eating as a compliment to the primal foods.
I wish I could say we’ve stuck with the diet completely. We haven’t. I still eat bread, but I opt for sprouted grain or sourdough instead of traditional breads. We still eat white rice occasionally. We eat lentils (soaked).
And we eat ice cream. I know. The horror. It’s organic, grass-fed dairy in our ice cream, but there is also sugar in there. Life is too short to not eat ice cream.
Checking in with the professionals
I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants through all of this. I check her teeth pretty much every day, and it has seemed as if they were just frozen in time. Every once in a while, something would look a little off. Usually, it would be because she was sleeping with her mouth open all night. Then, I’d up our efforts. We adhered to the principles pretty strongly over the first 6 months. But we did not do this religiously over the past 3 1/2 years. We still allow treats. Ice cream still happens. She’s a kid, you know? Being too hardcore can often cause kids to rebel. I didn’t want to be that mom.
Since Claire is starting Kindergarten this fall, I received a dental health evaluation form from the school. My stomach bound into knots just reading it. Yes, I could have opted out, but given the visible damage to her teeth, I felt it was time to find a dentist that could tell me whether or not any of these efforts had helped. If it had helped, I would have proof.
In my initial telephone conversations with local dentists, I sensed condescension. I explained the situation, and I said I didn’t want invasive treatments; I just wanted a check to see how she was doing. One dentist said they would “educate me about my treatment options.”
But my treatment options were already happening, every day! Talking to mainstream dentists actually made me feel worse.
Having spent as much time as I have spent researching dental health, I am obviously open to hearing as many options as possible. But knowing how barbarically invasive dental treatments can be, I was incredibly wary.
I widened my search, and I ended up traveling 5 hours by car to the bay area for a dentist.
When I walked in and saw the high quality supplements on the shelf, and the water alkalizing machine in the lobby, I knew I was probably in the right place. Still, I braced myself for what I might hear about Claire’s teeth. For over 3 years, I have held a fear of bucking the system and being judged for it. I even felt fear for not bucking the system enough! I mean, we had ice cream in the house.
I felt that this dentist was my last hope, and yet I still wasn’t very hopeful.
Claire sensed my fear, and did not want to go. We made a trip of it, visited the Golden Gate Bridge, and “oh, by the way, hello dentist.”
Dr. Smith and his staff made Claire feel comfortable and at peace. He counted out her teeth, and said the magic words: “caries arrested.” Meaning, yes, she has decay, but the decay was stopped. The dentin that is exposed is hardened. And, the teeth that are the worst off in the front are already beginning to loosen. She’ll get her adult teeth soon, and the visible caries will be gone.
I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I cried. I felt such a sense of relief that her teeth are okay. He also said her jaw development is excellent. He congratulated me — and Claire — on a job well done.
I think that years of anxiety about her teeth came out in those tears. What a relief…. a relief to know she’s okay, and a relief to know that trusting my gut and not the condescending dentists was the right thing to do.
There is so much judgment out there about parenting – what is one person’s religion is another person’s sin. Some people are such hardcore vegetarians, others are hardcore medical establishment. I had a few situations in which I was questioned in my decisions. I started to learn to shut up. Some people find comfort in root canals, I suppose. Not me. I find comfort in knowing that we can support our health through diet.
Claire shows off her “teeth wig.”
Claire was happy she got some vampire teeth from the toy bin after her appointment. She calls them her “teeth wig,” and tries scaring everyone with them.
I’m relieved that her teeth are healthy, and that the efforts we undertook made a difference. I’m hoping those adult teeth coming in are going to showcase the benefits of the health-supportive efforts we have taken.
Wouldn’t it be great if neither of my children ever have to endure having a cavity filled? It is completely possible.