, pub-8087192757053655, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Director Jewels: Addie's Teeth: Early Childhood Caries & Fighting Severe Tooth Decay in Breastfed Toddlers

Monday, July 14, 2014

Addie's Teeth: Early Childhood Caries & Fighting Severe Tooth Decay in Breastfed Toddlers

Did you know that kids can get cavities in their baby teeth before they’re even two years old? I sure didn’t – until it was my kid. In the time-span of a few short months, I learned more than I ever cared to know about Early Childhood Caries, or the severe decay of baby teeth (even in a breastfed toddler). And I especially found that it's a tough situation for a mom who is seeking a natural alternative to a root canal or crown in a toddler.

It turns out that it’s a more common problem than you would imagine. The two pediatric dentists that I have spoken with shared with me that they see this problem in approximately one out of five children – albeit not always as early as fourteen months of age, which is where our story begins.

Chipped front tooth - December 2013.

It all started with a chip. I noticed one day – around Christmas last year, when she was eleven months old – that Addie had a little chunk missing out of one of her top front teeth. I hadn’t observed her running into anything or falling down, but my house is wild. There’s always running and shrieking and general chaos with two toddlers in the house. I figured it was well within the realm of possibility that she could have chipped her tooth, and thought no more of it.

If you have ever had a toddler, you may be able to appreciate the fact that it’s not exactly easy to look at your baby’s teeth. Toddlers are not usually excessively compliant when asked to open their mouths to let their parents view their pearly whites. I considered it success if I could just get a toothbrush in her mouth, whether I could actually see the teeth or not.

Broken lateral incisor - February 2014.

But two months later, when I caught a glimpse of what looked like a broken lateral incisor beside the chipped front tooth, I pried her mouth open amidst great protest to get a better look. And I was horrified. Not only was almost half of that tooth gone, but the chip in the center was larger and there was yellow decay up around her gum line on all four of her top front teeth. Nothing else seemed to be affected, but this was an extremely huge problem. I was shocked and appalled, and in complete disbelief. We may not have brushed her teeth every night since she popped her first tooth, but I think anyone with two kids under age three who manages to get every single thing done every single night at bedtime is a magician – or liar.

Forgive the filthy mirror. Appreciate the cute, chubby baby.

I immediately started researching tooth decay in babies. I emailed another (formerly local) blogger, Anjanette from Raising the Barrs, whose daughter had gone through a similar ordeal. I made an appointment with a highly recommended pediatric dentist. I found that Early Childhood Caries is a growing problem. Apparently more and more toddlers are beginning to have teeth just rot out of their mouths. I went to the dental appointment with great trepidation, fearing the worst.

And, as far as I was concerned, my fears were confirmed. I was told that Addie was “just unlucky” – but that the primary cause for this was my allowing her to breastfeed at night. Their recommendation was to immediately schedule a surgery to file down the four affected teeth to remove the decay, then place caps (crowns) over them for the remainder of her baby-tooth years.

I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate. Addie has co-slept almost since birth to allow both of us more adequate rest. There are multiple reasons to breastfeed during the night and I was not willing to accept that by meeting my child's need for comfort and nourishment, I was destroying her teeth. And the thought of putting her under general anesthesia for a surgical procedure at fourteen months old made me sick to my stomach. I started doing more research. I asked friends for help.

March 2014.

I've learned so much about the causes of tooth decay that it necessitates a post all its own, but here's the gist. Tooth decay is not so much caused by having breastmilk on a child's teeth at night as it is by the overall health of a body. And a lot of bodies are severely deficient in crucial vitamins like A, D, and K. When these run out and the body has an oversupply of phytic acid (found in grains and legumes), one of the first signs is a loss of enamel - which leads to the teeth being susceptible to decay. There is also some evidence that her lip tie could have contributed to the problem. I have known since birth that she had a lip tie, but never had it corrected because unlike Lincoln - who had a very difficult start to breastfeeding - she nursed just fine.

I found several stories online about people who effectively halted the tooth decay in their children (and themselves) by following the Weston A. Price diet, drinking raw milk, and adding supplements such as fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil to the diet. The most widely referenced resource on the subject of tooth decay is the book Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. I started reading this book and tried to implement all that I could.

Dentist appointment with Doc and Lambie.

My plan for Addie's teeth was to heal them and to avoid the surgery. Immediately, I ordered fermented cod liver oil and started giving her BioDent, a supplement from Standard Process. I wiped down her teeth any time food or breastmilk touched them. I brushed them fervently, two or three times a day. She never really ate many processed foods to begin with, but I cut out all crackers and sugar from her diet. When the cod liver oil arrived, she took it willingly - but the liquid form I gave her left her mouth and lips bright red immediately upon touching her. Worried about a possible shellfish allergy, I ceased giving it to her directly and instead took many doses myself, hoping some of the vitamin content would reach her via breastmilk.

This process went on for about two months. I took photos of her teeth as I was able, to document whether or not we were making any progress. For several weeks, I thought that her teeth looked better. The amount of decay around her gum line was reduced and the chips were not increasing. I had great hope. Until one day, when she fell and must have knocked a tooth against something - because the lateral incisor that had been partly missing was now broken off completely at the gum, with a jagged edge protruding into her mouth.

Lateral incisor broken at the gum line - May 2014.

I was devastated. Since her adult teeth will not be growing in for at least five to seven more years, as soon as the tooth at the gum was broken, I knew in my heart that we would need to schedule the surgery. Kids need their baby teeth to form good eating habits, to hold the space in their mouth as adult teeth grow in, and to foster language development. As we were now looking at needing to have the broken tooth extracted (something that would need to be done under general anesthesia due to her age), it was not reasonable to skip having the other teeth fixed. The expense and ordeal of the surgery was not something I wanted to repeat if her other three teeth did not heal.

One of the options for capping her teeth. This was a decision I could not even
wrap my brain around. You're not supposed to have to think about things like this!

So, a few weeks later, we waited anxiously as our baby underwent surgery to extract the broken tooth and cap the other three. The dentist also found some small cavities in her molars that were filled while she was out. She bounced back quickly - after a few hours and a nap, she thankfully had no lasting effects from the anesthesia and never even needed any pain medication once we were home.

Surgery prep. May 2014.

It was not the solution that I wanted, but I have been a lot less stressed since having the procedure done. I do feel that this whole ordeal has been life-changing for our family. I never expected to deal with having dental issues in baby teeth. But since this post is already 1200 words long, I will save my thoughts on how this has changed our life for another time.

Post-surgery nap. May 2014.

The point of this very, very long post is this. Sometimes, even if you're not doing anything wrong, terrible things can happen to your kid. Throughout this ordeal, I have cried so many tears - feeling insufficient, blaming myself, wishing I had noticed sooner so that I could have had a better chance at healing her teeth naturally before having to resort to a surgical procedure. And while I still wish we had had a different turnout, I'm grateful for the knowledge I have gained about our teeth and the way our bodies work. It has changed my approach to nutrition and I think we will be better off as a family because of it. I have to find a bright side somewhere, right?

Extracted lateral incisor (left) and three capped teeth.

Have you ever heard of healing tooth decay? What do you think about this natural alternative to dental fillings and replacements?

If you are looking for more resources about healing teeth, be sure to follow my Curing Tooth Decay Pinterest board - I'll add more to it as I find new research.


  1. Thanks for sharing your hard story, Julie. You are a strong, brave mama! I think Addie will read this account when she's older and be touched by how hard you worked to do the best thing for her. <3

    1. Thanks, Holly. I kind of had a knot in my stomach when I hit publish on this one (definitely not as light as my usual stories), but I so want to encourage other mamas who may find themselves in this same situation.

  2. Oh Julie, I'm so sorry for everything that your family has been threw with Addie's teeth. ((hugs)) When I was about 4 or 5, I had to have caps put on my two front teeth, and they were silver! So happy that Addie's are not. They look very natural :)

    Speaking of chipped teeth. I noticed that Lynley has a chipped front tooth. Your blog has pushed me to schedule the twins' first dentist appointment now instead of waiting until they're two like recommended. Thanks for sharing your difficult story. It's made me more aware for sure.

    1. Oh no! I hope Lynley's chip is just from running into something and not the start of a problem. I am glad that at least it's just Addie's baby teeth - I would have been a lot more upset if this had happened to her permanent teeth!

  3. I had found some yellowing on the back of my 2 1/2 year olds front 4 teeth. Being breastfed still at this age I didn't know what to think! Hes had a regular dentist visit just the other day which confirmed my worries of caries. Now we are waiting to see the Pediatric dentist and see what our options are. I do not do fluoride, and I do not like the idea of silver in the mouth of a toddler. I have NO idea what caps in a 2 year old would look like or feel to them. Has everything been normal as far as eating for your daughter? Any abnormal things or tips/tricks?? Looking much like I will have to do the same thing but they wont be putting him under. I feel awful that my 2 year old is having to go thru this!!!

    1. Hey Megan - everything has been totally normal for Addie following her surgery. She was only grumpy for half a day and then was right back to eating/acting normal. I don't do fluoride either. I think I may be fighting some decay in my 3yo now, so I'm attempting some serious dietary changes to see if we can fix the root cause this time around vs. just treating the symptoms. Good luck to you and your little guy!

  4. Hi Julie.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I discovered the first signs of my son's early childhood caries about a year ago. At the time, I had no idea what it was and was devastated and I blamed it on bottle feeding through the night. The ped dentist suggested surgery with GA; I was terrified of putting my 2 year old through this, so I started researching online and I found the Cure Tooth Decay book and started reading it, but at the time, I was skeptical and felt that the diet Ramel suggested was too restrictive and the information was overwhelming and the ability to purchase and consume raw milk, raw cheese, marrow bones just sounded so foreign to me. But I did buy fish oil (unfortunately not the fermented one) and butter oil hoping to stop the decay. That was a year ago, my son's teeth continued to deterioate and the enamel on most of his front teeth just flaked away. I was devastated and took him to another dentist a few months ago, he ended up with two stainless crown on his two back molars with pupulptomy. More work has to be done on the top two first molar and cainne too. The front four, we decided to take a watch and see approach as they will be falling off in about 2-3 years. I am very concerned right now as he was fighting at the second treatment and refused to see the dentist again. About a month ago, I have started completely cut out grain, sugar, processed food to halt the decay. We also eat pastured or grass fed meat whenever possible. I wished I have done this diligently a year ago, but I just too foolish back then. I am just hoping now we can stop the progression of his decay and seek the treatment when he's a bit older. :-( So I have the same lessons learned like you (mine is obviously a very painful and expensive one. I learn so much about nutrients and how important whole food is to our overall health which I think will benefit our family in the long run) , but until my son's teeth are taken care off, I will continue to worry and stressed out about it, that I am sure about. :-(

    1. Hey Cici - thanks for taking the time to comment. BIG HUGS, mama! This has been the most frustrating journey in my parenting journey so far - for sure.

      The good news I have for you - after we had Addie's surgery, we have been so much more diligent about watching what we are eating. I have seen no additional decay in her teeth and I watch them diligently now.

      My older child, Lincoln (age 3) has some decay in his front two top teeth now - sigh. I have cut all grains from his diet (except for some sprouted grains), and the decay has not significantly worsened. I'm hoping to hold it off until he loses those teeth in a couple years - to avoid having the same dental procedure trauma that your son is now dealing with.

      We drink raw milk and I only buy non-processed foods. I have not been able to 100% cut sugar from my own diet yet (I'm addicted), but I am trying! My kids VERY rarely eat sugar. I do think it makes a difference - but it is a lot of work!

      I wish you all the best!

  5. Hi, Julie. Thank you so much for your response and kind words. I totally agree with you that so far this is definitely the most challenging part of my parenting journey as a mom (8 years). At certain times, I actually wanted to cry from all the mother guilt for letting this to happen :-( I know none of the guilt or worry will help with the situation, but I just couldn't help it. I had some sleepless nights. sigh. I need to learn to manage it before it ruins my health.

    I write back to share what I observed about sprouted grain. We started consuming that as a gradual transition to a grain-free diet, but only after about two weeks, one of my son's tooth started to decalcify; the tooth looks mushy and looks like you can scratch off the enamel. So I immediately took that out from his diet and the tooth was remineralized in a matter of a few days. Not sure if anything else was at play, but this was the major change I made. The only other thing we eliminated at the same time was nut butter. So it could be either one that caused the decalcification. Ramiel also suggested to eliminate sprouted grain as sprouting can only eliminate a small amount of phytic acid.

    Also, have you heard about Ozone treatment or MI paste? Many moms on the internet sworn by it. Would you consider it for your son? I am going to a new dentist this week and will ask him about it and if the treatment would be useful to slow down the decay on my son's teeth to buy us sometime.

    ps. I also find it hard to have a sugar-free diet. I had a HUGE sweet tooth. I am currently trying to quite coffee and had broke the rule twice already in the past 2 weeks. :-p

    1. I won't lie, I definitely cried over this a LOT.

      So interesting about the removal of sprouted grain. We actually have my son completely off of dairy/wheat/gluten/oats/eggs because we've learned that he is fighting leaky gut and a yeast imbalance in his body.

      I have heard of Ozone and MI, but have yet to give either of those a try. We've been kind of consumed by the new diet stuff for Lincoln and the teeth have taken a back burner - I'm hoping that with all of the great nutrition, we will automatically be working on those, too. Soooo much to learn!

  6. My son had the same problem. I waited until he was 2 and a half to get the problem fixed.
    Now that my ebf 1 year old has her four front teeth...I'm noticing decay. I'm glad it's a bigger problem than I thought. ...but I'm still unsure about a 1 year old getting crowns :/

    1. Oh no, Kait! Finding decay on baby teeth is so disheartening. :(


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