We recently discovered that Ronnie (4) has 9 cavities. Yes, 9. When the dental hygenist showed me the x-ray, I was appalled. I was shocked. I was distraught. Concerned. Worried. Heartbroken. We discussed Ronnie’s diet a bit and discovered a few places we could make some improvement. The obvious place – sugar. While I work hard to avoid a lot of things in our food, I haven’t ever really been concerned with sugar. The only restriction I put on it was that I don’t want my kids consuming high fructose corn syrup and organic raw cane sugar is better than refined sugars. After warning me about juice and sweets, they just assumed I wanted the cavities filled and referred me to a pediatric dentist who could do it over the next few months. But, I’m not so quick to jump to the conclusion that drilling and filling is the best answer – at least not yet.
The buzz around a lot of natural families and dentists right now is that it’s totally possible to re-mineralize teeth and eliminate the need for surgical procedure. After reading several articles and the widely recommended book, Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, I feel confident in at least trying to help Ronnie heal his teeth. Now, I can’t jump into it full-force and feed my kid liver and veggies while avoiding all grains and sugars, but I can make improvements. Here’s some things we’re trying out:
- Water. I know this is the best way to stay hydrated, but I’ve always flavored my kids water with a little juice to make it easier to drink. Turns out that doing so keeps sugar in his mouth all day long and it could contribute to bacteria growth. He doesn’t like the transition, but Ronnie only drinks water or herbal tea with no sweeteners in it throughout the day now.
- Adding a daily cod liver oil supplement. Ronnie knows that he gets 1 cup of a juice a day – and that’s only with lunch or dinner (chewing helps prevent the sugars from staying on the teeth). That’s when I mix in the cod liver oil and he doesn’t even notice it.
- Reintroducing dairy from grass-fed cows. Since we discovered that Wade is sensitive to dairy, we’ve pretty much replaced all of our milk, cheese, and butter with dairy-free alternatives and Ronnie gets dairy treats only every now and then. While these choices have just as much, if not more, calcium and vitamin D, they may be absorbed differently because they aren’t in their natural form, so for Ronnie we’re going back to the real stuff. It has to be from grass-fed cows, though, since that’s really the only nutrient-rich form – and this stuff ain’t cheap.
- Adding in a probiotic milk kefir in the morning. The brand we’re using does have some sugar in it, but I’m hopeful that the probiotic benefits will outweigh the downside of the sugar. Plus, we brush his teeth right afterwards.
- Using a different toothpaste. Together, we made a homemade re-mineralizing toothpaste, but Ronnie wasn’t keen on it. I don’t mind it and actually feel like my teeth are much cleaner since using it. But, for my little guy, we had to find a smoother tastier alternative. We ended up settling on a brand that uses only natural ingredients and includes the crucial calcium carbonate and xylitol that the homemade version called for. So far, so good.
- Limiting refined sugar and grains. According to what I’ve found out, high-quality sourdough bread, white rice, and semolina pasta are the least detrimental to the absorption of minerals, so these are the grains we’ve been focusing on. That means we’re avoiding all other grains for right now. Sweets have to come in natural form – meaning from fruit and sometimes a little honey.
That leads us to treats. While other adults in my children’s lives feel like the only way to let them have fun is to endulge in processed and crap-filled psuedo-foods lacking any nutritional value, I on the other hand hold the belief that we can have fun while being healthy. At snack time today, I was listing off what we had available so he could make a choice – strawberries, toast, eggs… All of a sudden, he chimed in, “How about a chocolate smoothie?” What a great idea! My kid is a genius. It’s a fun way to have a little treat and get some minerals in the kid’s body – all while having fun because he gets to make his own smoothies and he loves our Ninja food processor. Ronnie gets to pick most of his ingredients and today’s smoothie included: spinach, pineapple, mango, blueberries, avocado, cocoa powder and a little bit of chocolate almond milk to smooth it all out. It ended up being a little too fruity for my taste (I would have eliminated the pineapple and mango), but he enjoyed it.
Think of all the minerals he just slurped up from that little cup? All with minimal sugar. Now I’m on a mission to find other fun treat alternatives (like this one I’ve been making regularly for a few weeks now). Because, cavities be darned, they won’t ruin our fun!