A success story: Remineralizing teeth after “bottle rot” in a breastfed child

 

Heather is one smart blogger from the website, The Mommypotamus. Not only does she feature intelligent posts and yummy recipes, but she also has several wonderful eBooks. (I just got done looking through her DIY Organic Beauty Recipes, and it’s a winner! I’ll share more about it in another post.) But today I asked Heather to share her story of healing some pretty significant teeth issues her child had. Notice the had.

For those that think this whole topic is crazy, science is just a little behind us on this topic. ;-) Even the Discovery Channel mentioned remineralizing teeth as a possibility (though I don’t agree with all of their recommendations), and there is some breakthrough technology that could help teeth regrow after a cavity in the future. Or….you could see what a nutrient dense diet does for you.

I share these stories not to heap guilt on those with children who have dental issues. I know, from a lot of personal experience, that healing a broad range of health issues doesn’t always work the same way for everyone. I also note that Dr. Price always found some people with some signs of former or current cavity issues with all of the healthy people groups he studied (though they were all minor issues). But the point is this: Both Dr. Price’s work, and stories like this should give hope that significant health problems, including teeth decay, is not a insurmountable health issue. A nutrient rich diet could offer significant help to many. So I offer these stories as encouragement and to give hope to those who face similar problems.

I find this story remarkable because Heather and her family were eating a very good diet when they experienced dental decay, but they experienced significant changes when making some positive changes. If you eat a good diet, but are experiencing dental trouble, perhaps you just need to tweak the already good things you are doing, and make sure you supplement with cod liver oil and butter oil. Read on for the full story.

Kimi: Can you tell me a little about the food background of your family before you found out your child had dental issues?

Heather: We were eating a very traditional diet: raw milk, lots of butter, organic and pastured meats, local eggs and organic produce. I hadn’t braved organ meats at that point, but I did take them in supplement form. My daughter, Katie, had never even had a processed food when we discovered the decay.

Kimi: And how did you discover her dental problems?

Heather: The first sign of trouble was that her teeth just started crumbling. One day when she was 19 months old I laid her down to change her diaper and realized part of her front tooth was missing. It was there when I dressed her that morning, and then it wasn’t. There was no fall, no trauma . . . I’d been with her the whole time. A friend who is a dentist examined her and said her front teeth were just incredibly weak.

To say I was confused is a massive understatement. She had a broad, wide palate and vibrant health in every way. She’d never had an ear infection to taken medications of any kind, so why were her front teeth turning to chalk? I had no idea what I’d done wrong, but it was devastating to watch.

As you can see in the picture below, her incisors became very porous and brown over time. If you’re looking closely you might also notice her front tooth appears to have partially grown back. I’ll explain that later on in the story.

Kimi: What was your plan of action from this point on? What did you change in her diet?

Heather: I ordered Ramiel Nagel’s book, Cure Tooth Decay,
as soon as her tooth broke. We were already eating a 99.99% traditional diet, but I did find some key changes to implement:

  • No grains (she was 19 months old and had only had sourdough and oatmeal in small amounts, but we cut these out)
  • Limited fruit and honey (even more than usual)
  • Fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil every day
  • lots of shellfish for minerals (bone broth, too, but it wasn’t as well-received)
  • foods rich in phosphorous
  • horsetail, a supplement which is rich in silica (I emptied a capsule into smoothies made up of egg yolks, pineapple for flavor, and a little water)

I also started making my own tooth soap and continued researching possible causes for the decay. The answer came in the most unexpected place: my son! He was born tongue-tied, a condition that has become increasingly common over the past few generations. Katie is not tongue tied, but as we explored my son’s condition we realized that both of our kids were lip tied. When a lip tie is present the mouth has trouble clearing milk away from the top four teeth. In Katie it caused the breast fed version of what is commonly called “bottle rot.”

Research has shown that cocaine exposure increases the incidence of tongue ties (ankyloglossia), which is not a factor in my case. However, the fact that some chemicals have already been studied and linked to this defect makes me wonder which ones might that haven’t been studied. I’ve been making my own beauty and cleaning products for years, but before that I used a slew of toxic chemicals. Could this be yet another consequence?

For those who are wondering whether their little one might be tongue/lip tied, here’s a post on how to diagnose at home and/or get free advice from the top U.S. expert on ankyloglossia.

Kimi: What was the time frame of this changed diet (that is, how long were you eating this way before you had her teeth checked again?)

Heather: About two years. I saw a ton of improvement initially: two small cavities disappeared and her front tooth seemed to be actually growing back. Over time, though, her incisors became darker and darker brown. When she was three I became so distressed by it that I took her to a holistic dentist to talk about filling options. I was worried that if the decay went to the root it would harm her adult teeth.

When we arrived the dentist gave us a pretty grim prognosis, then examined her. As it turns out, Katie’s teeth had completely remineralized!

Apparently, her teeth had healed (and even regrown a bit, it seems) long before. The brown crust was actually old tooth that had been replaced by new enamel underneath. All that was left to do that day was to buff off the crusty old enamel. The dentist wasn’t able to get it off completely because the vibration from the buffer made Katie nervous, but I’m thrilled to say she didn’t need one filling.

I snapped this photo when we got home that day.

As a side note, the dentist was familiar with the work of Weston A. Price and attributed Katie’s remineralization to our diet.

Kimi: How has the ongoing health of her teeth been?

Heather: It’s been two years and she’s never had any issues since.

Kimi: In closing, what do you think were the most significant changes you made to help her teeth heal? Any advice to those with teeth issues?

Heather: I would say cutting out grains and being consistent with the fermented cod liver oil/butter oil made the most difference. Other than that, the biggest change for me was intentionally preparing a lot of mineral rich foods, like shellfish and broth. It took some time to figure out how to work it into my routine but it was definitely worth it!

About Heather: Heather Dessinger, aka The Mommypotamus, is a wife, blogger and mom to two amazing kiddos, both waterborn at home. She loves all things fermenty, talks to sock puppets, and dreams of owning her very own flock of backyard chickens. She is the author of two ebooks. Nourished Baby is a simple guide to introducing real food to little ones, and DIY Organic Beauty Recipes is a collection of 50+ beauty and personal care product recipes that really work.

Disclaimer: As mentioned previously, any dental issues should be overseen by professionals. I am just a mom sharing interesting research and personal stories, and this post is not intended to offer medical advice. Please see your health care provider about all of your health concerns. 

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Sharalyn says

    FYI–

    Midline defects like tongue tie and upper lip tie are connected with the gene that produces MTHFR. When the gene is active, the enzyme is not produced for proper absorption and the tranformation of folic acid to folate and methylfolate. So even if you are taking a ton of folic acid in pregnancy and such, you can’t convert it to get it into the cells, so you are actually deficient. This gene is associated with many malabsorption issues and includes it being more difficult to rid the body of normal toxins (and even harder to get rid of other toxins). A healthy diet goes a long way with this!

  2. says

    This is a fantastic success story! These types of dental issues are often related to celiac disease/non-celiac gluten intolerance so it makes so much sense that the book advised patients to eliminate grains. Being tongue tied and stuttering can also be signs of gluten issues. I am not familiar with horsetail supplements; will have to check those out. Anyway, thanks for sharing your family’s success story. So happy that your Katie is happy and healthy now!

    Shirley

  3. Lynda says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Is she still grain-free, and if not, how long was she grain-free. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Lynda! She is no longer grain-free. The dates are a bit fuzzy but I’d say she was grain-free for a year and a half to two years. Part of that was because she and I did GAPS in solidarity with my husband (who needed it) :)

      • Beth says

        Hi Heather,

        I just took my two year old to the dentist today because he has a lot of cavities and his front tooth just chipped off. It was also infected and the dentist said that he recommended removing his two front teeth and replacing with prosthetics. I am devastated and had no idea this could happen so young. I want to try this method you did. I couldn’t find much info on horsetail for toddlers and was wondering how much you gave to your daughter? Also, how long did you do this method before you saw results and are you continuing it? Thank you!

        Beth

  4. says

    This is a wonderful story and I am so thankful for your series on these nutrient dense foods. We are already eating a nutrient dense diet, in fact we are entering our tenth year of this journey, but there is always a need for encouragement and always room for improvement. I love these specific step-by-step stories with pictures! Kimi, your series has really had me thinking more about how I can improve our diet and this story is yet another confirmation that this idea of synergy in the diet is crucial. It is time to order more fermented cod liver oil, and this time I will be making sure to include the butter oil as well!

  5. Kelly says

    Amazing story. My daughter’s teeth did almost the same thing at about 18 months. I WISH I had known about this back then and could have saved her the torture of being strapped down and awake for dental work on her incisors. Stories like this encourage me!

  6. Danielle B. says

    What an encouraging story. My children aren’t able to do any dairy, and I have noticed my oldest son’s teeth steadily chipping away, tiny bit by tiny bit. (He’s five.) While I don’t necessarily condone replacing whole foods with supplements, since we can’t do dairy, I have had success giving my children the FCLO and the “Activator X” supplement: Vitamin K2 MK-4. It was inexpensively purchased on Amazon. It has also helped with my other son’s eczema. Congratulations on your success story, Heather!

    Oh, and I believe the term for bottle rot in breastfed children is “nursing caries”.

  7. Kimberly says

    What an inspiring story :). Would you please share what kind of horsetail supplement you used. Thank you & Blessings

    • says

      If you can’t hide it in a smoothie, etc (try peanut butter or blueberries for this), you can rub it directly into their skin – it absorbs this way, too. Good luck!

  8. Rebekah says

    Once her cavities were healed did you keep her off grains or reintroduce the fermented or soaked grains? My 9yo has some cavities in between his molars partly due to a poor diet during a move and lack of dairy due to allergy. I’m trying to decide whether or not to try and heal them or have them filled. Going off grains, fruit, and honey, in addition to dairy will be tough for a hungry little boy.

  9. Tracy says

    Just wanted to say how thankful I am for your blog. I found out I have folic acid absorption problems because of MTHFR and here it is a week later and someone mentions it right here. Thanks for all your hard work bringing us together and for sharing so much wonderful information about food and health for moms and children.

  10. Eilise says

    Is there an equivalent alternative to shellfish? I am allergic. Also, where can I buy good quality cod liver and butter oils?

  11. Morgan says

    This might be a little far fetched, but my husband was born without his top incisors. He wears a retainer with two fake teeth attached to it. I wonder if doing the things you have suggested might trigger his body to grow those teeth?

    • says

      My oldest son was born without his two front bottom permanent teeth! I am also curious if there is something I can do to get his body to grow them.

  12. misterworms says

    I love success stories. It’s great to hear when good oral health is achieved and maintained at an early age; it can make a big difference later in life.

    There’s a yahoo group called ‘Very Young Kids Teeth’ that may be useful to parents going through something similar. I’m not sure what direction it’s gone in lately but the archives are full of great info and it is breast-feeding friendly.

    The standard advice from dentists for early childhood caries (or ECC) is usually to quit nursing and lay off the soda/juice and sweets. Treatment is cutting the diseased teeth, often aggressively under GA if the decay is present on more than 1 or 2 surfaces. This seemed so crazy and over the top when it was presented as the only option to me.

    I think a lot of babies and young kids who are already on a good diet could avoid these risky treatments that are not much more than patching over symptoms simply by limiting the frequency of feeding carbohydrates, specifically sugars and simple starches/flours. Just like with the rest of our gut, the flora in our oral cavity can become unbalanced. If it’s too acidic too frequently it will overwhelm our saliva’s buffering capacity.

    There are a variety of topical treatments available to knock down the population of pathogens, many fluoride-free if that’s a concern: ozone, chlorhexidine, licorice root extract, xylitol. Remineralization helpers: Novamin, Tooth Builder paste (fluoride-free) or Squigle paste, MI Paste (w/ or w/o fluoride). Good ol’ aged cheese will do the job, too.

    There’s more to it of course… we can also modulate the buffering capacity of our saliva. Our hormones influence the flow of fluid within the dentinal tubules. There’s the inflammatory process – could this be where gluten grains and sugar are a double edged sword, adding to the microbial load on one end and inciting inflammation in sensitive individuals further down the gut? How does the microbial community in diseased biofilm evolve over time/does that affect which treatments will end in success? Very interesting topic!

    With so many tools out there I wish that dentists would offer gentler methods of treatment as a first option rather than resorting to risky, unpleasant surgical options first. That’s not even to mention the cost which is just out of this world.

  13. Jamie says

    I am so encouraged with this story. My daughter is 13 months old, and she is having some teeth issues, too. She began grinding her teeth as soon as her upper central incisor came in and almost immediately they began to chip. I have offices some white spots, too. What is really frustrating is that she did have a lip tie, but I had it paired when she was 6 weeks old. I am afraid to head to a dentist because I am pretty sure they are going to try to convince me not to nurse her throughout the night (which I do not think is good advice for babies).

    Anyway, I recently came across your (Heather) blog, and I love it. I read that you applied the FCLO topically, which is what I have started doing with my daughter. Do you know if doing this can provide the same results for her teeth that it would if I gave them to her orally?

    Thanks for all the great info.

    • Jamie says

      Sorry for the auto correct :). I meant to say that I have noticed some white spots, too. And, I had her lip tie repaired at 6 weeks.

  14. says

    Thanks so much! Wish I had known this when my daughter started the same issue at 18 mos – I searched and searched for info, to no avail. So thank you for sharing, and for inspiring me to help her heal now!
    Blessings,
    Adrie

  15. Leah says

    Thanks for this story! I have been trying to heal my 2 yr olds teeth since I saw brown spots a couple of months ago. I’m not sure if it is working, but they are definitely not getting worse. Could you share what a sample diet for a 2 yr old would be that would help remineralize teeth or is it different for different children? Any suggestions for getting them to actually eat it? The good: She loves to take her cod liver oil, loves raw milk, loves butter, sometimes will eat cheese, sometimes will eat eggs (if I give her smoked salmon with it), loves meat usually, has eaten liver without much of a problem though I could hardly tolerate so don’t make it enough. The bad: doesn’t like broth (though she will sometimes eat pureed vegetable soup with my home made chicken broth as a base). Wants to eat fruit all day which I probably give her too much, wants to eat bread and crackers all day — I don’t buy crackers but I do give her sourdough bread. Wants to eat a lot of unsoaked peanut butter. She eats a little honey or maple syrup almost every day.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am a little confused about how much food she should be eating and how I can do better. Any help from experienced mamas would be appreciated!

  16. says

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I’m blown away. I understand myself how difficult it is to do all the “right” things and yet watch your child suffer physically. I’m hoping that we too will find a few tweaks that brings about healing.

  17. Jessica Camarena says

    THANK YOU!!! I have been noticing decay on my 16 month old’s teeth and am panicking! I DO NOT want to cap his teeth, so I am trying to research into this and figure out what I can do..eliminating grains is going to be hard, but I have read elsewhere too that this helps..however, would soaking/traditionally preparing them allow me to keep them in his diet?

  18. Naomi says

    Thank you for having pictures of the before and after. I am just trying to start this for my son who has developed tooth decay in a matter of 3 weeks. This is going to be the hardest thing I will ever do but if it keeps me from having to put him under GA I can do it.
    Im concerned about the CLO, did you only ever use fermented? Im not quite sure about shelling out that much cash.

  19. Maia says

    This is great!!
    I need to do this for my daughter, my son already lost his front teeth :( How much horsetail do you put in the smoothies? I don’t want to give my child too much or little.

    Thanks!

  20. Jenny Travis says

    I can not tell you the solace you’ve brought me with your story.
    I’d noticed a white chalky line at the base of my sons two front teeth for some time. I just thought it was something that happened as his teeth grew. Then yesterday I decided to see if it was plaque I could scrape off because it seemed to have gotten worse. To my absolute horror there was a very obvious notch in his tooth beneath the chalky substance. I panicked and went on an immediate internet knowledge search. I was aghast with what I found. My son had “bottle mouth”?! What?! Like you we practice the Weston A. Price diet. My son is exclusively breastfed with no processed sugars and very very few grains. I read some blogs suggesting the lip tie which he does have but I was still feeling like it was something I’d done or something I hadn’t done that caused it.
    I have felt so horrible and inadequate as a Mom. None of the parent’s in my community have experienced this. To read your extremely similar story has really given me some reassurance that I’m not alone.
    Thank you so much for sharing and for the advice which I will most definitely take to heart.

  21. andrea says

    Hi. I have the same question..what food did your daughter eat on a typical day, after cutting out grains? It’s very hard for me to cuy out pasta and rice and bread. Meat and veggies just aren’t enough…
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  22. says

    Aloha, Thank you so much for your post! I am anguishing over my sons bottle rot front teeth and it is heartbreaking. It started out with the white notches at the base of the teeth and now his teeth are crumbling away. He also has the lip tie and nursed up until 2.5 years. All other teeth look good but a few had small cavities that the dentist wanted to fill. They strapped him down in a “papoose” and it took 4 people to still restrain him. It was one of the worst moments of motherhood so far. Do whatever you can to avod this procedure. My goal now is to just keep his baby teeth in his mouth by following Dr Weston Price’s recommendations.

    I did try for a short time using the fish oil and ghee and I noticed that it slowed the decay. Then our dentist told us he has to have flouride applied to the rotting teeth every night if we want the teeth to hang in there till they fall out naturally. Since using just the recommended smear of flouride every night I have seen them get increasingly worse! So now back to my original instinct of following the remineralization diet.

    The problem for me is that we are strict vegetarians and so we eat a lot of beans and nuts and grains. Finding a daily meal plan for us has been a challenge.

    I am wondering if anyone has any onformation on specific vegetarian meal plans for young children or recipes they could share? What about ezekial sprouted bread? Is that OK?

    My heart goes out to every parent here who is going through this. I feel your pain! Thank you Kim Harris for creating this blog post and forum for us! Aloha

  23. Amanda says

    my 19 more old has horrible chipping at the gum line. It started out as brownish red staining and the pedi dentist glanced once! goes, ah just stain, she has soft enamel. fluoride rinse! he orders the nurse. He failed to catch the pin point pit forming and he says fluoride will help and Vitamin D supplement. So I follow orders to fluoride swab her mouth and one month later that pin point pit became her whole gum line on all four front teeth! In thirty days.
    The staining started in June. And I admit I forgot to swab nightly, we had a few days where oh yeah…however we brushed her after every meal and it sped it up in my opinion! I am in anguish. in a panic her fate with her adult teeth. my son is fine. but I didn’t live in the country when pregnant with him. my daughter yes, we have a Well.

  24. Emily G says

    Hi! Thanks so much for this story. I am currently trying to remineralize my almost four year old daughter’s teeth. We are doing the HVBO and CLO blend, raw milk, cut out almost all grains and sugars. She had two holes in a back molar and after we started following this protocol, the holes turned black. Also brown/yellow spots started appearing on her front teeth. I don’t know if these are signs of decay or of healing. How did your daughter’s teeth start turning brown? Was it gradual in spots or just an overall color? I am so worried that her decay is getting worse and I am at a loss as to what to do.

  25. says

    Thanks for sharing this story. Dental health has always been an issue for me. Recently I have found my 5-year-old son having the same problem and try to help him out (I don’t want him to have terrible teeth just like me). After reading several articles, I think I may buy the book first and then start my “tooth decay” project.
    Dorothy

  26. says

    I have read some articles related to this issue. Thank you for sharing this story and may try to help my kids (as well as myself) fighting against tooth decay by changing our diet.

  27. Jennifer says

    Thank you for this post! My son is almost 17 months and we took him to the dentist about a month ago for the first time. We were told his top two front teeth had significant decay and that she would try to save them. Needless to say I read “Cure Tooth Decay”, bought the book “Nourishing Traditions” and used your post to educate myself as much as possible. I would love your opinion on a couple things though…

    We cut out oatmeal completely (Gavin ate it every day for breakfast since age 6 months – oh never again!!!), however, he is a picky eater and pasta is one of the few things he will eat. In your opinion, do you think it’s imperative to also cut out pasta? (I use organic gluten free ancient grain pasta made from quinoa, amaranth and brown rice by the company called tru roots). He eats a few bites of toast with his egg yolk and that is the ezekial brand of sprouted bread. Just looking for some guidance from someone that has been through the same thing, especially since you felt cutting out grains was crucial.

    Second question…did you continue to nurse your daughter? Were you night nursing? I have continued doing both, making sure to brush his teeth at least 3x during the day.

    One last thing…did you find a way to get your daughter to take the bone broth? Gavin loves meat and loves to drink anything i drink but for some reason he won’t touch the broth! and i drink it too!

    Thanks so much,

    Jennifer

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