A Mom’s Dental Dilemma

My friend, Shara, is tired of spending money at the dentist. It seems that no matter how much effort and money she invests in her and her daughter’s mouths, they can’t seem to win their battle against tooth decay. Shara does all the right things. In fact, she probably takes better care of her teeth than many dentists! Her daughter would win awards for her dental hygiene routine. And yet they are plagued with dental health issues. Shara shares her story here:

Recently, I wrote a post about feeling judged by our child’s dentist. The truth is, I’ve always taken care of my children’s teeth. Tooth-care is not a new phenomenon in our home. All the same, my daughter seems to be experiencing tooth decay faster than a Hollywood marriage goes down in flames.

Two of my kids have NO cavities and one (who brushes & flosses the most!) has many! I would love for a dentist to sit down with us, personally assess our situation, and give me tips for how to improve my daughter’s impending decay. In the meantime, I’ve decided to put into action the tips I’ve gotten from online sources. These tips might also help you; so feel free to use them. (I’ve put my tips in italics- Antoinette)

One dental hygienist told me that when kids snack all day long, tooth decay is more likely to occur. For that reason, they should be eating no more than three times per day. This is hard to manage if your kids are in Preschool or school, where they are given snacks, etc. (Every time you eat, plaque produces acid for at least 20 minutes after. Eating several times a day exposes teeth to more tooth decay-producing acid than eating 3 times a day.)

Here is what I’ve been doing lately with my daughter’s teeth: she wakes up and I brush her teeth. She eats breakfast and I brush again. She goes to Preschool, gets a snack there, comes home and eats lunch. I brush and floss after lunch. If my kids get any afternoon snack (which we’ve been cutting down on) I brush her teeth again. I brush and floss again after dinner.

I’ve been told that using fluoride too often can have the opposite effect on teeth and cause them to break down (a Doctor told me this). Therefore, it’s best to use fluoride only at night and for all of the other brushings, use a fluoride-free paste that’s sweetened with Xylitol (not sugar). I found FOUR such kinds of toothpaste for kids:

  1. Melaleuca Koala brand (you can only buy this if you are a member of the club)
  2. Green Beaver Green Apple Toothpaste (this is the one I purchased and we all really like it)
  3. Aquafresh Training Gel for kids
  4. Orajel Training Gel for kids

I found both the Aquafresh and Orajel at Walmart for around $2.

We floss with Glide by Oral-B. In my opinion, this is the best and easiest floss to use. It’s coated and does not get stuck inside our teeth leaving strands of floss behind (gross).

Twooth Timer wrote a blog post after Halloween about kids brushing BEFORE and AFTER eating sweets. She stated that brushing beforehand, using the Xylitol paste, would stop the sugar from sitting on the teeth, eating away at the enamel. Therefore, if I know my kids are going to eat a lot of sweets (for a birthday party, let’s say), I brush their teeth before and after: BOTH. (Brushing before reduces the amount of plaque that is present when sugar is introduced. Less plaque = less acid = less potential for tooth decay. Xylitol is also available in candies and gum and has the same benefits! Look for ‘sweetened with 100% xylitol.’)

We are completely cutting out sweets like fruit roll-ups and gummies because they stick to the teeth and are extremely difficult to remove – even when brushing. (Raisins/dried fruits are sticky too. Best to eat them at home when teeth can be brushed.)

We limit juice in our home and almost never drink soda pop (a few times per year, at most). Even Capri Suns (naturally flavored) contain a high content of sugar so we limit those as well (one per day, per child).

Any time my daughter eats nuts or popcorn I floss right after in order to remove kernels, nut pieces and so on. This flossing is in addition to the lunchtime and bedtime flossing that we do.

My daughter sucks her thumb at night and tends to leave her thumb in unless I pull it out. I’ve been making a point to pull it out every night, right after she falls asleep. I’m not sure why I’m doing this but something tells me that thumb-sucking is probably not affecting her tooth decay in a positive way. I’m not taking any chances so I remove the thumb within minutes of her falling to sleep. (Thumb sucking/pacifiers after the age of 5 can cause orthodontic problems.)

I read that cheese is good for the teeth as well as raw vegetables, as the cheese coats the teeth with a cavity barrier and the raw vegetables act as a natural brushing tool. My kids have always loved cheese so I don’t have to push that but I have been pushing the raw vegetables more often in order to benefit their teeth. (Cheese neutralizes the acid produced by plaque. Great to include in school lunches when they can’t brush after eating!)

The dental hygienist gave me some dental wipes, also, and told me that I can put those in my purse to use at restaurants after eating. I noticed that they are sweetened with Xylitol just like the toothpaste we are using during the day. They are safe enough to use on babies, according to the packaging. They come in various flavors like grape and apple.

My daughter didn’t care for the wipes and informed me that she went to Preschool and told her friend that dental wipes are POISONOUS. LOL. I told her that was not true and she replied, “I know. But I told her they were.” Haha. Naughty girl.

She also told me about Oral Probiotics and encouraged me to look into that. I located a more affordable brand on the CVS website: 60 Evora chews for $19.99 + shipping. I’m not sure why the dentist never mentioned this but I’m glad that Twooth Timer did! My box should be arriving any day now and we’ll begin using the chews right away.

Wrapping up

We don’t yet know if this will stop the decay on my daughter’s teeth. Studies do indicate that there’s a genetic link to tooth decay and that would not surprise me; my own teeth are very well taken care of yet… I continue to get decay. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do! The men in our home have few, if any, cavities – however, my daughter and I can’t seem to stop the pitfall that has become our mouths.

I keep trying, though. I keep trying.

It’s my hope that dentists and hygienists will someday chat one-on-one with patients to find out their personal stories. How can they help us?

What does the latest research indicate? What can we do to protect our mouths? What types of oral bacteria exist and how does each one affect the male or female? What foods are best to eat and worst to eat? What toothpastes are most effective (don’t tell us the ones that offer the freest samples to the dentists, please – tell us the ones that actually show, in research, to be best)? How many times per day can we safely brush and floss? If sipping from a bottle during sleep time causes tooth decay for babies, why isn’t the Dental Association recommending that parents take kids to the dentist soon after birth – to teach them the proper care? Why wait until the child is older, long after bottle decay has already set in (for those who bottle feed)? (The ADA and AAPD have stated the first dental visit should be between the first tooth and first birthday. The problem is that pediatricians, who should be informing the parents about dental hygiene and dental visits, aren’t passing on the information. I found an article that states only 17% of pediatricians tell parents to take their baby to a dentist by age 1. Moms I’ve talked to told me their pediatrician doesn’t give them any information about oral care and tell them to take their kids to the dentist at 3 years old. It’s the AAP that’s falling down on the job!)

I could go on and on but I’ll stop for now. You get my point. We need to be trained and taught and educated. Perhaps not all parents give a hoot about such things but some of us most certainly do. I’d love to sit down with a dentist and learn all I possibly can about how to help my daughter and what choices to make.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do my own research and apply what I learn…hoping all the while for the best.

Share Your Thoughts

If you have had a similar experience or know of a solution, please post a comment! Your ideas could not only help Shara but other moms as well.