How to Get Rid of Cavities: 9 Home Remedies + Prevention

smile teeth happy

There are several home remedies to get rid of cavities, as well as effective prevention methods that anyone can (and should) do for their dental health — and overall wellness.

It’s the dreaded phrase no one wants to hear at their annual exam: “you’ve got a cavity.” It’s important to understand what that phrase means, how some cavities can be treated at home, and how to prevent more cavities.

What causes cavities? Plaque and acid sitting on the teeth cause cavities. Pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the mouth produce acids that eat away at a tooth’s enamel. Enamel erosion causes demineralization and tooth decay. Small holes (dental cavities) begin to form in the tooth.

Now, for the good news: In some cases, you can get rid of a small cavity without a filling. Some smaller cavities can be reversed through a process called remineralization.

Remineralization restores weakened enamel, replacing essential minerals to strengthen the tooth’s outer layer. We’ll discuss the top 9 ways to remineralize and reverse small cavities, all of which double as prevention methods for cavities.

What are some symptoms of a cavity? The symptoms of a cavity include:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain in the tooth
  • Toothache
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Small hole in the tooth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)

Unfortunately, not all cavities are treatable with remineralization. This option will only work in the early stages of tooth decay, or the pre-cavity stage.

If you notice pain, visible holes, or bleeding accompany your cavity, it’s time to see a functional dentist, who will tell you if remineralization is still an option.

If the damage is treatable, here are 9 ways to reverse your cavity at home and prevent future decay.

1. Use hydroxyapatite toothpaste.

Not enough people know about hydroxyapatite toothpaste. It’s as effective as fluoride toothpaste but without most of the potential side effects.

For years, fluoride toothpaste has dominated the market, but mainstream toothpastes often come with concerning chemicals. One of the problematic materials is SLS, which causes skin irritation and ulcers, and is often found in laundry detergent.

Other troubling ingredients include triclosan, which may trigger allergic reactions or antibiotic resistance, and silica, which wears down enamel.

Fluoride itself has a long list of concerns as well, including neurotoxicity in large doses, staining teeth, and even weakening bones. Particularly for kids, it’s bad news. Honestly, a wet toothbrush without toothpaste might be overall better than fluoride toothpaste.

That’s why I recommend hydroxyapatite toothpaste. This fluoride-free toothpaste is just as effective at cavity prevention, but with far more benefits. Hydroxyapatite is:

  • Microbiome-friendly. Fluoride kills bad bacteria, but also some good ones. Hydroxyapatite balances your oral microbiome and makes it more difficult for bad bacteria to attach to teeth.
  • Biocompatible. Hydroxyapatite is safe to swallow — enough so that you could swallow a whole tube! Especially since kids are still developing their swallowing reflex, this can bring a lot of peace of mind since swallowing fluoride can lead to fluorosis.
  • Naturally whitening. Hydroxyapatite naturally helps the teeth to appear whiter. Instead of the discoloration that fluoride treatments can induce, hydroxyapatite improves tooth coloring and appearance.
  • Reduces sensitivity. Hydroxyapatite is a natural way to treat tooth sensitivity, reducing the pain that comes from worn-down enamel.

Seeing as hydroxyapatite makes up 97% of enamel, it’s simply a better way to remineralize the teeth.

While you’re practicing your dental hygiene, don’t forget to…:

  • floss, which is crucial for controlling interdental plaque.
  • …scrape your tongue with a metal tool can also help to balance oral bacteria.
  • …skip the mouthwash since most mouth rinses dry out the mouth and kill good bacteria.

2. Eat a tooth-friendly diet.

What you eat provides the building blocks for your teeth, either contributing to decay or preventing it. Eating sugary foods or simple carbs like crackers and chips or drinking sweet beverages like juices and sodas can speed up cavity development.

The bottom line for tooth-friendly foods: Avoid carbohydrates and sugar intake!

What is the best way to prevent cavities? The best way to prevent cavities is to eat a diet that strengthens your teeth while practicing proper oral hygiene.

For a tooth-friendly diet, you’ll want to eat primarily whole foods:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grass-fed dairy and meats
  • Pastured eggs
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Fermented foods

I tell people to shop the perimeter of the grocery store instead of opting for processed foods in the middle aisles.

It’s also important to “eat the rainbow,” choosing many different colors of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting the most nutrients possible.

You’ll want to opt for remineralization-friendly foods full of vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to “get rid of” small cavities. In other words, reduce and remineralize.

3. Chew sugar-free gum.

Sugar-free gum, specifically gum sweetened with xylitol, can be a powerful agent in cavity prevention. Make sure to grab a piece after meals for a sweet treat that’s kind to teeth.

Chewing xylitol gum after a meal can wash away harmful bacteria and food particles in your teeth, removing them before they become a problem.

If your microbiome needs help, xylitol can also reduce the overall number of harmful bacteria in your mouth. While it’s balancing bacteria, xylitol is also able to make plaque less sticky, inhibiting it from clinging onto your teeth as effectively and making it easier to brush off.

Sugar-free gum should be your go-to after eating out or a quick snack. Those are amazing benefits from a piece of gum!

Warning: Don’t let your dog accidentally consume xylitol. Their digestive systems don’t know how to handle it.

4. Oil pull.

Oil pulling is growing in popularity as people understand its myriad benefits. While the name may sound mysterious, the process is simple: Swish organic oil around the mouth for up to 20 minutes, then spit it into the trash.

Oil pulling has been practiced for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and modern science recommends it as well. Research has shown that oil pulling can:

You can start with as little as a minute or two and work your oil pulling up to higher lengths of time. It’s possible to pull with many different types of oil, but my personal favorite is coconut oil.

5. Chew oral probiotics.

The mouth has its own distinct combination of bacteria and microorganisms. An oral probiotic can boost the amount of helpful bacteria in your mouth, and chewing them is the most effective delivery system.

People who are more cavity-prone, as well as those trying to reverse a cavity, can benefit from oral probiotics introducing more of these helpful bacteria.

Gut probiotics are more common to see and help maintain a positive bacterial balance in the digestive system. However, the oral microbiome has different native bacterial strains and therefore needs its own supplement.

Oral probiotics can prevent and combat tooth decay with little to no side effects. They typically come in chewable tablets or lozenges, and are best taken in the morning right after your A.M. dental care routine.

6. Breathe through your nose.

Dental health is closely linked to your airway health. Mouth breathing or sleep disorders can cause the oral tissue to dry out, reducing the saliva that protects the teeth and leaving the teeth exposed to decay.

People who breathe through their mouth are much more likely to experience gum issues and dental caries.

Common signs of daytime or nighttime mouth breathing include:

  • Snoring
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Chronic cold or stuffy nose
  • Feeling fatigued even after a full night’s rest
  • Sucking on the thumb or fingers (in children)
  • Behavioral issues (particularly in children)

All of these symptoms can indicate airway issues. A functional dentist can look at these issues and treat the root cause, preventing cavities and clearing up the airway for optimal health. If you are trying to reverse a cavity, mouth breathing is not an option.

Breathing through the nose not only keeps the mouth moisturized. It provides valuable nitric oxide that helps the body heal and supports cardiovascular health. You’ll be preventing cavities and feeling rested in no time.

7. Consider dental sealants.

Dental sealants are thin coatings that are adhered to the surface of back teeth. Covering the molars and premolars can be an excellent option for certain patients, keeping bacteria away from the enamel and providing added protection for hard-to-reach teeth.

Dental sealants are primarily used in children and early teenagers. They can be a good option for cavity prevention in the following types of patients:

  • Little ones with a particularly high cavity risk, whether genetic or due to lifestyle factors
  • Kids who naturally have deep grooves in their molars, which can trap bacteria and be difficult to brush
  • Children who have just had their first set of molars erupt, around age 6
  • Adolescents who have just had their permanent molars or premolars erupt, around age 12
  • Children who have special needs that make brushing and flossing a challenge

However, dental sealants are not a good option for children who have existing decay on the back teeth, grind their teeth, or have acid reflux. These factors can wear down the sealant material.

Also, technique matters! Ideally, look for a dentist who uses cavity-detecting cameras or scanners prior to placing them. Using ozone to disinfect is another great sign that a dentist is looking out for your overall health.

A good dentist should use biocompatible materials for dental sealants and fillings. Ceramic-based sealant material is far superior to BPA or bis-GMA plastics. The material used should also be based on your child’s tooth anatomy and cavity risk.

8. Supplement with vitamins D3 and K2.

Even when eating a tooth-friendly diet, it can be challenging to get every nutrient in large enough quantities to remineralize the teeth. Vitamins D3 and K2 are two crucial nutrients for oral health that most people are deficient in — up to 90% of the population could use more!

When trying to reduce and remineralize cavities, vitamins D3 and K2 build healthy layers of enamel and dentin while helping your body absorb the calcium it needs. Together, they contribute to a robust outer surface for the tooth.

Other tooth-friendly supplements include licorice root, calcium, and hydrolyzed collagen.

9. See your dentist.

Don’t skip your twice-yearly visits to your dental practice. Regular checkups and cleanings can help catch cavities early, when they can still be remineralized with home remedies. 

Additionally, once plaque is allowed to sit undisturbed for 48 hours, it hardens into tartar that only a dentist can remove. Frequent cleanings are crucial in preventing tooth decay and gum disease caused by tartar under the gumline.

Left untreated, larger cavities will spread into the inner layers of the tooth, hitting the sensitive dentin and even infecting the soft tissue (pulp). Other treatment options may be necessary as the cavity progresses, depending on the severity of the decay.

Here’s what your dentist can provide for you, depending on the level of decay:

  • Fillings. These minor procedures treat small cavities that are still contained to the enamel surface of the tooth.
  • Crowns. Crowns can be used when there are large cavities, or when the decay has reached the dentin layer. They cover the entire surface of the tooth.
  • Root canals. Root canal procedures remove the soft tissue from inside the tooth, then cover that tooth with a crown.

No matter what stage your decay is, there are treatment options available. You can always get rid of cavities: at home in the early stages, or with your dentist in later stages.

Want more free dental health tips and tricks? Sign up for my email newsletter. I promise, your teeth will thank you.

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What Is Tooth Enamel? How To Avoid Enamel Erosion

tooth enamel cute boy smile

Perhaps you’ve just visited your dentist and have questions. Maybe you’re just starting to explore the world of dental health (in which case I’m glad you’re here)! Either way, you’ve got foundational questions about the structure of teeth — like tooth enamel.

What is tooth enamel? Tooth enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth surface. Enamel is a hard shell made up of minerals that covers and protects more sensitive tooth tissue. It does not contain living cells. The color of healthy enamel ranges from gray- or blue-white to light yellow.

What is the role of tooth enamel? The role of tooth enamel is to guard your teeth against decay, bacteria, plaque, acids, and any daily wear or tear that threatens your tooth’s health. It is the hardest substance in the human body and has a Mohs hardness scale similar to steel.

While the definition of tooth enamel is widely agreed upon, how to care for it is a different story. Integrative dentistry believes in treating root causes of enamel issues and building stronger enamel to promote overall health. 

Tooth enamel loss can be prevented, and in some cases, even restored. Let’s dive into defining tooth enamel and how to avoid enamel erosion.

What causes tooth enamel loss?

Tooth enamel is a changeable substance within the body. It can be reinforced or reduced, depending on many environmental erosive factors. 

There are several causes of tooth enamel loss, AKA dental erosion:

  • Abrasion. This is physical wear and tear on the outer layer of the tooth, which can be caused by improper use of floss, toothpaste, or a toothbrush, chewing on hard objects like pens and nail biting, and chewing tobacco use.
  • Attrition. This is the deterioration of teeth due to friction with other teeth. The most likely culprit here is bruxism, or tooth grinding, which is related to stress. Bruxism often affects the molars, though it can occur on any tooth.
  • Abfraction. Flexing or bending the tooth beyond its capacity can crack the tooth and cause a form of erosion known as abfraction.
  • Corrosion. This is tooth decay caused by acid attacking the enamel surface. It may occur from very acidic food, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), acid reflux, fruit juices, vomiting (especially due to bulimia or alcoholism), aspirin, excessive whitening, or vitamin C tablets. These culprits eat away at the surface of the tooth over time.

Signs of Enamel Erosion

How do I know if I have enamel erosion or not? You can quickly see if you have enamel loss by looking at two things: color and condition. A yellowish color or cracks and damage to the tooth structure may indicate thinning tooth enamel.

What are the main signs of enamel erosion? The main signs of enamel erosion include:

  • Mild sensitivity. When enamel begins to wear away, it can expose the more sensitive layer below, called dentin. Dentin quickly registers changes in heat, cold, and sweets (which feed the acids that cause tooth decay).
  • Intense sensitivity. Sharp, severe pain from the hot, cold, and sweet sensations in the mouth can occur in the later stages of enamel erosion.
  • Discoloration. The teeth can take on a yellowish color when more of the dentin layer is exposed.
  • Cracks and chips. The edges of teeth take on a more jagged appearance, feeling rougher and more irregular as the enamel wears down.
  • Indentations. Also known as cupping, small dents can appear in your teeth as enamel wears thin.

Tooth enamel can also begin to develop dental caries (tooth decay) more easily. If you’re experiencing frequent dental issues or cavities, eroded enamel may be to blame.

Can you rebuild tooth enamel?

You can restore demineralized tooth enamel, but you cannot rebuild tooth enamel entirely once it’s gone. When you notice weakening enamel, make necessary changes in your diet, lifestyle, and oral care.

The first step in losing tooth enamel is called demineralization. This occurs when the acid produced by bacteria eats away at the minerals that make up the enamel. These minerals include fluoride, hydroxyapatite, and the calcium and phosphate ions that help to restore teeth.

Teeth can also be remineralized. In this process, you can replenish the minerals that have worn away, weakening the enamel. Fluoride and hydroxyapatite treatments aim to remineralize tooth enamel.

Protecting Your Tooth Enamel

In functional dentistry, addressing root causes of demineralization is preferable to dealing with cavities down the road. Protecting your tooth enamel is undeniably a better option than trying to remineralize your teeth after the enamel has eroded away.

How do you stop enamel loss before it starts? Stopping enamel loss before it starts involves a combination of several preventative measures:

  • Get the best nutrients. Vitamins K2, D3, and essential minerals are all crucial dietary factors to build healthier teeth.
  • Avoid mouth breathing. Breathing through the mouth can dehydrate oral tissues, creating a friendlier environment for bacteria to demineralize the teeth. Mouth taping at night or retraining yourself or your child to breathe through the nose during the day can help!
  • Oral probiotics. Oral probiotics are a great option to balance the microbiome in the mouth and fend off an acid attack.
  • Limit phytic acid intake. Often found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and plant-based oils, phytic acid reduces your ability to absorb certain minerals that help build tooth enamel. Try sprouting, fermenting, or soaking the phytates in your diet — particularly when kids are involved.
  • Practice oral hygiene. Both brushing and flossing are vital in preventing demineralized enamel for children and adults. I also recommend tongue scraping to keep the oral microbiome well-balanced.
  • Flossing. Flossing removes buildup of plaque from in between teeth. This prevents plaque bacteria from eating away at the tooth enamel that toothbrushes don’t reach.
  • Alkalizing mouthwash. An acidic oral environment can promote enamel loss. An alkalizing mouthwash neutralizes the harmful bacteria that break down tooth enamel.

For more on prevention, diet, and handy oral health tips, check out my Instagram!

Treatment of Enamel Loss

While prevention is the best possible outcome, it’s simply not possible in some cases where enamel loss has already begun. 

How do you fix tooth enamel? You can often fix tooth enamel by restoring the minerals it has lost. This process is called remineralization. The best ways to rebuild demineralized teeth are to change your lifestyle and diet and to practice holistic oral hygiene. 

Minerals to add back to tooth structure include calcium phosphate, magnesium, potassium, and hydroxyapatite.

Consider an oral probiotic to restore the good bacteria and other organic material within your oral microbiome.

Dietary Overhaul

Diet is the key to overall health, and changing what you eat can give your body the essential minerals it needs to remineralize enamel.

Ensure these vitamins are in your diet for optimal dental health:

  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E

Essential minerals for restoring teeth include:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus

I recommend eating the rainbow, with lots of whole fruits and vegetables, as well as grass-fed dairy and meats.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling involves swishing organic oil around in the mouth for up to 20 minutes. This habit can moisturize the mouth, inhibit plaque, and support strong enamel.

Additionally, oil pulling doesn’t have the same drying effect as many traditional types of mouthwash. Conventional mouthwash kills positive bacteria in the mouth and promotes dry mouth. Please, don’t use alcohol-based mouthwash.

Personally, I prefer organic coconut oil for this healthy practice.

Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste

Hydroxyapatite toothpaste is one of the best options for your oral hygiene routine.

Hydroxyapatite makes up 97% of the tooth. A toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite crystals can help restore the minerals that build strong enamel.

My personal favorites are Risewell (use my code DOCTORSTACI for 10% off) and Boka (use my code DOCTORSTACI for 20% off).

Switch to Sugar-Free Gum 

Saliva contains calcium and phosphorus, agents that assist in remineralizing enamel. Chewing on sugar-free gum can help increase the saliva circulating through the mouth.

I recommend xylitol gum, which seems to promote oral health beyond just saliva production. Xylitol is almost 0-calorie but still sweet because it’s a sugar alcohol. (Definitely don’t let your dog eat any xylitol products.)

A Note On Toothpaste

Many traditional dental professionals suggest fluoride toothpaste. However, I do not recommend it to my patients for their overall health care. 

Hydroxyapatite toothpaste is proven to work as well as fluoride toothpaste, but without the potential side effects.

When to Visit the Dentist

In some more severe cases of enamel loss, remineralization is not possible. The enamel may be extremely damaged, or lifestyle changes may not be the right choice for that specific case.

What happens if tooth enamel is gone? If tooth enamel is gone, certain dental procedures like fillings, crowns, or veneers may be necessary. Make sure to use biocompatible materials, not heavy metals like mercury amalgam.

If you are experiencing painful tooth sensitivity, cracking and chipping in the teeth, or cupping in the teeth, it’s time to see a dentist and create a plan for treating enamel loss.

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IIN Review: I’m a dentist — now I’m a health coach, too.

This is my personal review of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I went there after I was already practicing dentistry, and it ended up being a life saver. This is my personal experience, but it definitely applies to anyone who is thinking about studying there.

If you are passionate about seeing people embrace a healthier, more holistic lifestyle while earning a living, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition may already be on your radar. It certainly should be.

Disclaimer: I may earn a commission from links in this article. This doesn’t change my opinions on IIN. It only helps me continue to write these handy articles that anyone can read for free.

What is the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)?

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition is an online school for health and nutrition coaches. It’s the “world’s largest nutrition school,” only providing online course options for convenience. (It was certainly convenient for me.)

The goal of IIN is to help students understand how diet is the key to overall health, both for themselves and their future clients and patients.

The IIN program is for people looking for a new career, or simply those digging into health and wellness through the power of healthy eating.

However, you’ll soon learn that nutrition is incredibly multifaceted, something that really spoke to me. It’s not just about what you eat, but a fully integrated healthy lifestyle.

At the end of IIN’s health coach training program, you will be a Certified IIN Health Coach, which is different from a dietitian or nutritionist.

You will not receive accreditation in the same way that you will be at a university. This is a different kind of journey, based on health coach certification and a holistic approach.

An IIN health coach is a supportive authority on wellness. Typically, they make personalized recommendations that help clients move toward their individualized health goals.

My Journey to Becoming a Health Coach

About 2 years ago, I was attending a conference on holistic dentistry in central Oregon. Little did I know, it would enrich my life in more ways than I expected.

One of the sessions I attended featured Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a fantastic herbalist and functional medicine doctor who works with Dr. Andrew Weil. She gave a captivating presentation about how functional nutrition relates to oral health.

We chatted afterward, and during our conversation, she recommended IIN. 

At the time, I’d been interested in going for my Master’s degree in nutrition, but this felt like an even better option.

Not only did that choice permeate my thinking and open me up to understanding diet and overall health; it also changed the course of my career.

Almost a year into my IIN journey, a global pandemic struck. I graduated just one week after my office closed due to COVID. It was an extremely uncertain season. I didn’t know if our dental practice would ever open again. We were considered non-essential.

It dawned on me: Maybe I’ll get into health coaching?

With that thought, I started Happi Health a week after my office closed. I immediately began working as an online health coach. This was only possible because I had the certificate from IIN. Talk about serendipity!

Who teaches classes at IIN?

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition boasts dynamic speakers and leaders I’ve admired for years. 

Over 85 different famous lecturers like Deepak Chopra and Dr. Andrew Weil teach classes at IIN, as well as the founder of the program, Joshua Rosenthal.

How much weekly time will it take to get my certification?

How long does the Institute for Integrative Nutrition take to complete? The Institute for Integrative Nutrition takes either 6 months or 1 year to complete. It depends on whether you attend part-time or full-time.

As a parent who also runs my own business, I felt that enrolling in the 6-month program would be too much. However, I felt the one-year option was perfect for my lifestyle. I often listened to lectures while driving and did coursework after I got home from work.

For me, it took about 10 hours per week to complete lectures and coursework then get my certification — having an existing science background was a big help! 

Many students find that it’s closer to 20 hours each week. The weekly time depends on how much you study and use supplemental material.

Career Options After the Institute for Integrative Nutrition

The global pandemic gave everyone time to sit and reflect on their career paths. Many realized that clocking in for a 9-5 each day wasn’t very fulfilling.

For me, IIN has allowed me to confidently offer health coaching to new and existing patients in addition to my existing dental services. It let me see a future where, despite the uncertainty of “in-person” dental practice, I could still work with people to achieve the healthiest versions of themselves.

Plus, it gave me a chance to expand what I offer and give solid, evidence-based nutrition advice.

IIN attempts to guide grads into their own health coaching practice, but it gives students a good base of knowledge for other endeavors as well.

Other IIN graduates have gone on to write books, run seminars and retreats, enhance their training or yoga business, and even become inspirational speakers.

How much does IIN cost?

What does IIN cost? The current cost of IIN is $6,795 USD, with both a year-long and 6-month option.

Personally, the price felt reasonable with my existing career and manageable even though I’m still an active mom. Under $7,000 for a course that could shape your career is a great deal!

What I Liked Best About IIN

  • Well-prioritized. IIN talks about the importance of primary food (such as your community, sense of purpose, friends, relationships, mindset) as foundational, before what’s on your fork.
  • Organized. All the supplementary materials automatically come with the course.
  • Flexible. Since the course is online, there’s a lot of leeway to listen in your car or catch up on the weekends.
  • Tech-savvy. IIN offers excellent support in getting your website and social media branding up. No failure to launch issues here.
  • Supportive. Facebook groups and other support groups provide a wealth of knowledge, new friends, and coaching circles in your area.
  • Personal. They require you to complete 6 health coaching sessions with your friends and family, breaking you out of your shell and making the information come alive in your own circles.
  • Very inclusive. IIN has no dog in the fight, catering to different dietary options (carnivore, vegan, Paleo, and more). The program covers all the eating styles as well as people’s bio-individuality.
  • Interactive. IIN requires students to attend live coaching sessions required (in EST) where students coach each other with a guide.
  • Fits many people. IIN is a welcoming, open-minded program that accounts for different dietary theories, each person’s biochemistry, and various lifestyles and belief systems. Less judging, more learning!

IIN might not be right for you if… 

While being an Integrative Nutrition health coach is a wonderful experience for me, it’s not for everyone. The IIN program may not be right for you if you are:

  • Someone who learns by reading. Since the course is mostly video, this may not be the educational style for students who prefer to read when learning.
  • Others-motivated. Since you complete your coursework at your individual pace, people who are self-motivated are more likely to succeed.
  • An international student. The live sessions and some supplementary materials are geared toward students in the USA — both in time zone and in cultural discussions.

My Institute for Integrative Nutrition Review: Was it worth the cost?

What are the benefits of becoming a holistic health coach? The benefits of becoming a holistic health coach include inspiring clients to change their health and lives and helping clients to achieve their personal wellness goals and an overall healthier life.

Is IIN worth the money? For me, IIN was worth the money and more. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Even with my dental background, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition helped me connect more dots between functional medicine, healthy eating, and the everyday life choices that lead to wellness.

If this is the right next step for you, I encourage you to enroll today, or even sign up to take your free sample class. Your best days and a new career are just ahead of you!

What Causes Rotten Teeth? [Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & More]

What your child is eating (think: candy) and not eating (think: probiotic-rich yogurt) can have a direct impact on whether or not you have to deal with rotten teeth. Tooth decay, AKA rotten teeth, is so common in children!

The good news is that it can easily be avoided.

Pictures of rotten teeth can be quite alarming, especially in the late stages. Will rotten teeth fall out? If rotten teeth are not addressed, they can eventually fall out and also cause significant infections and other problems before falling out.

The good news is that you can prevent severe decay before it starts or even early enough to reverse the damage. Yes, a reversal of rotten teeth is possible in the early stages!

rotten teeth

What causes rotten teeth?

Rotten teeth — or tooth decay, dental caries, or cavities, as we dentists call it — can be caused by many factors, including:

Poor Diet

An unhealthy and nutrient-deficient diet is by far one of the main contributors to tooth decay.

Foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes, flavorings, and starches contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth. Plaque, and eventually the tartar it turns into, breaks down tooth enamel and causes cavities and other dental health concerns.

Frequent snacking or grazing is a major source of tooth decay, resulting in enamel erosion and cavities.

This is because snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment.

Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm your teeth. This makes it more likely for you to experience tooth decay and develop cavities.

Try to pick snacking windows to use daily for your kiddos to prevent rotten teeth.

Bad Dental Hygiene

Not taking proper care of the teeth and gums can result in rotten teeth. Brushing, flossing, tongue scraping, and other basic dental care techniques serve as a way to offset the demineralization that leads to cavities.

Ensure your kids (and you!) brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Don’t forget to schedule regular check-ups and cleanings with your dentist (at least two times per year).

Dry Mouth/Mouth Breathing

Have you noticed that your child is a mouth-breather, even without a cold or stuffy nose?

Although this may not seem to be a cause for concern, chronic open-mouth posture or mouth-breathing reduces the amount of saliva and disrupts the oral microbiome within the mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay gum inflammation.

Dental Crevices

A tooth with a crack or crevice is more likely to become a rotting tooth. Tiny or noticeable dental crevices provide a place for bacteria and acid buildup, which encourages tooth decay.

Sometimes, dental sealants are used for crevices on a tooth’s surface (especially molars) to prevent dental caries.

Unhealthy Oral Microbiome

Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria. Having an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth creates a microbiome that is much more conducive to rotten teeth (and many other health problems!).

Those harmful bacteria love sugar. When you consume a lot of carbohydrates or high sugar foods, bacteria produce acid that contributes to the formation of cavities and rotten teeth. The oral microbiome may also become overrun with pathogenic bacteria due to inadequate saliva production or mouth breathing.

rotten teeth

Symptoms of Rotten Teeth

What do rotten teeth look like? Several symptoms can indicate a rotten or decayed tooth.

Signs of rotten teeth include:

  • a hole in the tooth
  • a white, brown, or black spot on a tooth
  • toothache or sensitivity
  • swelling around the gum line
  • bad breath
  • loss of taste or altered taste in the mouth

If you or your child exhibit one or more of these signs, it’s time to schedule a dental visit!

rotten teeth

Dangers of Rotten Teeth

The scary fact is that rotten teeth affect the body that can go far beyond your mouth. Let’s take a closer look at just how serious advanced tooth decay can be and why you really want to avoid it.

Poisoned Bloodstream

If a decayed tooth becomes infected and is left to rot, it can lead to blood poisoning. This means that bacteria from the rotten tooth infection have entered the bloodstream.

Blood poisoning is a severe infection and requires urgent medical care.

Sepsis

A dental infection can also lead to sepsis, a life-threatening response to an infection resulting in tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

Seek urgent medical care if you have a rotten tooth and signs of sepsis, including fever, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, and mental confusion.

Gum Disease

The increased levels of plaque that cause caries can also contribute to gum disease.

Plaque turns to tartar, and both substances throw the oral microbiome out of whack and cause rampant inflammation — in other words, a breeding ground for bleeding gums.

Endocarditis or Meningitis

When a tooth becomes infected, a tooth abscess develops in the mouth. An abscess is a pocket of pus around the tooth caused by a bacterial infection.

If not treated, an abscess can spread to the jawbone, the soft tissues of the face and/or neck, and elsewhere. In extremely rare cases, the bacterial infection can travel to the heart, causing endocarditis, or the brain, causing bacterial meningitis.

Loss of Taste or Bad Taste in the Mouth

Infections caused by rotten teeth can actually result in taste loss or dysgeusia, a persistent, unpleasant, or altered taste sensation (sometimes metallic) in the mouth.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, taste disorders can be caused by poor oral hygiene and dental problems.

How to Treat Rotten Teeth

How can you fix rotten teeth without going to the dentist? If you suspect advanced tooth decay, schedule a dental visit immediately. However, there are things you can do at home depending on the level of decay and your dentist’s assessment.

Of course, daily oral care is always a must, but let’s look at possible treatment options depending on the stage of rotten teeth.

rotten teeth

Treatment for Early Stages of Rotten Teeth

Can you fix rotten teeth? In the early stages of tooth decay, your dentist may be able to perform a remineralizing treatment or advise you about at-home rotten teeth treatment and remineralization efforts.

Personally, I am a big fan of using biocompatible and non-toxic hydroxyapatite toothpaste rather than fluoride toothpaste for cavity prevention and rebuilding enamel.

Including teeth-healing nutrients like calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D3, and oral probiotics in the diet and avoiding demineralizing foods (high sugar and/or processed foods) is also critical.

Most of the time, it takes roughly 3-4 months for remineralization to take effect. You may want to take some pictures of the teeth before and after remineralization to document your child’s progress!

rotten teeth

Treatment for Advanced Stages of Rotten Teeth

Treatments for rotten teeth, or teeth that have been significantly decayed, include:

  • Dental filling
  • Pulpotomy (baby teeth) or root canal (adult teeth)
  • Tooth extraction

Unfortunately, not all cavities can be remineralized. When rotting has made its way to the dentin level or is causing pain, it typically cannot be remineralized or treated at home.

Once a rotten tooth is in the more advanced stages, your dentist will likely need to remove the rotten section of the tooth and insert a dental filling. 

If decay has reached the center of a tooth and is accompanied by infection, a pulpotomy (in baby teeth) or a root canal (in adult teeth) may be necessary. After a pulpotomy or root canal, you’ll need a dental crown.

Alternatively to pulpotomy/root canal, your provider may recommend a tooth extraction, which is complete removal of the tooth. If a baby tooth is extracted before the adult tooth is close to erupting, your child will likely need a spacer to maintain orthodontic growth.

Preventing Rotten Teeth

The best thing for rotten teeth is preventing them in the first place.

To prevent tooth decay on a daily basis:

  1. Follow a consistent oral hygiene plan that includes both brushing and flossing. Bush twice a day for at least two minutes and floss at least once a day. Be sure to scrape your tongue.
  2. Eat a tooth-friendly diet. Avoid snack foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes, flavorings, and starches. Instead of sugary foods and starchy foods, choose whole foods with fresh fruits, raw vegetables, quality meats and dairy, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and limited processed food products. Ensure that a healthy, whole foods-based diet includes calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and probiotics because these all help to naturally prevent rotten teeth.
  3. Have your child rinse their mouth after meals with water and wait at least 30 min before brushing.
  4. Try oral probiotics to balance the oral microbiome. This is particularly important if you or your child have bad breath or are consistent mouth breathers.
  5. Address mouth breathing with your child’s dental and other health providers. Don’t let mouth breathing and/or sleep-disordered breathing wreck your child’s dental and overall health!
  6. Avoid antibacterial products in the mouth, such as mouthwash. These knock out the good bacteria in the mouth along with the bad.

When to See a Dentist

As soon as you notice a rotten tooth, it’s an excellent time to see the dentist. Your dentist (especially if she’s a holistic dentist!) can guide you in reversing tooth decay at home or treat the tooth if required.

If you notice symptoms of open mouth breathing in your child, bring them to your pediatric dentist or pediatrician’s attention. Getting a proper diagnosis and early treatment can often treat the issue before these symptoms worsen and result in long-term medical conditions.

Your oral health and the oral health of your child reach far beyond your mouth. If you notice a rotten tooth, take action quickly to avoid tooth loss and other complications.

Sources

  1. Sepsis Alliance. 2021. Dental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/dental-health/
  2. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2021. Periodontal (Gum) Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Abscessed Tooth. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10943-abscessed-tooth#symptoms-and-causes
  4. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2021. Taste Disorders. Retrieved from: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/taste-disorders/more-info

What does a cavity look like? [Symptoms in Kids + Adults]

Cavities, also known as dental caries, are holes that form in teeth when tooth enamel is eroded by acid.

According to the CDC, more than 80% of Americans will have at least one cavity by the time they are 34. Cavities are amongst the most prevalent chronic diseases that affect people of all ages, but they are especially common in children. In fact, they are the #1 chronic disease in children in the US.

What causes a cavity? A cavity is a hole in a tooth (tooth decay) that can be brought on by a number of things, including a nutrient-deficient diet, frequent snacking, bacteria in the mouth, poor dental hygiene, demineralization of teeth, mouth breathing, genetic factors, and consumption of sugary/acidic food and drink.

Specifically, certain types of food particles break down into sugars and feed bad bacteria on the teeth, which then excrete acid. That acid can eventually build up into plaque and tartar and begin to decay tooth enamel and dentin.

When cavities are ignored, they can lead to bigger problems including painful toothaches, spreading infections, or even a root canal or tooth extraction.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If you suspect you or your child has a cavity, don’t hesitate to visit your dentist right away. Hopefully, the cavity may be reversible. But either way, the sooner you address the tooth decay, the better!

How can you tell if you have a cavity? You can tell if you have a cavity if you have signs of tooth decay including pain, sensitivity, or visible marks on your tooth. But often, smaller cavities have no symptoms and can only be diagnosed through a dental exam or with dental x rays.

Let’s take a closer look at the signs of a cavity possibly brewing in your kiddo’s mouth.

what does a cavity look like with advanced carriers

Signs of a Cavity

Cavity symptoms can vary depending on the size of the cavity as well as the location of the cavity in your mouth. Symptoms do tend to get worse as the cavity progresses.

It’s not hard to find a “do I have a cavity” quiz online, but you can also consider whether or not you have any of the cavity symptoms below.

Sensitivity

A tooth (or multiple teeth) with decay is noticeably more sensitive to temperature changes. If your child consumes something hot or cold and complains of sensitive teeth, it may be a cavity, especially if this sensitivity is newly developed since their last dental checkup.

Pain

What does a cavity feel like? A cavity can feel straight-up painful! Your tooth may actually ache. The pain will likely get worse when you consume things that are hot or cold. Sweet foods and sweet drinks may result in pain as well. Spontaneous pain, especially at night or during sleep, is a tell-tale sign, too.

The longer a cavity is ignored, the worse the throbbing or aching can become.

Swollen and/or Bleeding Gums

The gum area around the tooth of concern may appear red, raw, or inflamed. This change in gum texture will be most apparent near the gum line. Gums may bleed as well. Very often, swollen gums resembling a pimple or bubble can indicate a dental infection or abscess and indicate a call to a dentist ASAP.

what does a cavity look like with white spots and discoloration

White, brown, or black spots on a tooth

Can you physically see a cavity? Yes, it is possible to visibly see a cavity and it can appear in the form of a spot or discoloration on your tooth. If you notice a spot on a tooth — whether it be white, brown, or black — this likely could be a cavity.

Hole in the tooth

See a small hole in one of your child’s molars? If you visibly see a hole in your child’s tooth of any size, this is a red flag to make an appointment with the dentist. I encourage parents to look into their children’s mouth’s regularly, especially by lying children back for brushing and flossing because you will have a better view of what is happening in your child’s mouth. Some parents even bring out headlamps occasionally for a better view!

Halitosis (bad breath)

Does your child have bad breath even after brushing and flossing their teeth? This may be a sign of a cavity brewing. It can also be a sign of gingivitis (gum disease) in children and adults or an issue in the back of the throat or with a child’s sinuses, indicating a possible visit to an ENT.

It’s important to remember that your kiddo can have a cavity and not show any of these symptoms, which is why regular dental checkups are vital. Often, only advanced dental disease will cause symptoms.

what does a cavity look like with demineralization, white spots, incipient and staining

What do cavities look like when they first start?

Here’s what to look for on your kiddo’s teeth:

  • A chalky or whitish appearance on tooth enamel
  • A white spot on a tooth
  • A tannish, brown or blackish dark spot on a tooth
  • A tiny hole in a tooth

How to Reverse Cavities

Can a cavity go away on its own? Yes! The good news is that teeth can repair and heal, just like bones, so it is possible to reverse a dental cavity.

Made up of 96% minerals, teeth are the strongest tissue in the human body. They are porous, which allows them to lose minerals (but also to absorb them!). The sooner you catch a cavity and make efforts to reverse it, the better.

Wondering how to prevent cavities or reverse them if they’ve started? These are some of my top diet and lifestyle changes to start practicing today:

1. Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins D3 and K2 are crucial to optimal dental health in children (and adults).

Vitamin K2 plays a key role in the development and maintenance of healthy tooth enamel (outer layer of teeth with no living cells) and dentin (inner layer of teeth with living cells) immune response. Without vitamin K2 , calcium can’t be adequately processed in kids’ bodies and won’t efficiently strengthen teeth.

K2 can be hard to get in the diet, but egg yolks and grass-fed butter are a great source for kids without an egg allergy. I also like Carlson Kid’s Super Daily K2, which is a dairy-free, vegetarian liquid supplement. It’s an easy way to ensure vitamin K2 intake by putting a drop in food or a drink daily.

Vitamin D3, “the sunshine vitamin”, assists in the absorption of calcium. Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, egg yolks, sardines, and cod liver oil.

If you have trouble getting your child to be a fan of vitamin D foods, I also like Renzo’s Dynamite D3. It’s a tasty, green apple flavored tablet that is vegan, sugar-free, and has no artificial sweeteners. Totally parent and kid-approved!

Looking for a D3 and K2 together?  My new favorite combo is Mary Ruth’s D3/K2 which is what I give my own girls daily.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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2. Bone Broth

Thankfully, it’s often not hard to get kids to eat and enjoy soup. Make the base of that soup bone broth, and you’re providing them with benefits galore including remineralization and stabilization of teeth.

I always recommend making your own bone broth, but as a working mom myself I don’t always have the time. Kettle & Fire’s Bone Broth is organic with a variety of yummy flavors.  Many local farmer’s markets will have premade options, too.

3. Xylitol

A natural sweetener found in the fibers of fruit and vegetables, xylitol stimulates salivary flow which reduces the risk of tooth decay, strengthens teeth, and inhibits the growth of dental plaque.

You can look for toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain this anti-cavity ingredient. Plus, most sugar-free chewing gums contain xylitol.  I do advise using this in moderation as we are learning more about how alternative sweeteners may disrupt our gut microbiome. More research is needed.

4. Beverages

Limit sugary drinks — including fruit juice — as much as you can. Opt for water as much as possible and allow only plain water after your child’s nighttime dental care routine.

Milk can be a calcium-rich choice, but again, don’t allow this after teeth have been brushed. The lactose in milk is a sugar that can cling to teeth leading to acidity and possible cavity formation, especially when combined with food particles and plaque left on teeth with perhaps an unideal hygiene routine.

I recommend plain A2 or grass-fed, grass-finished milks, or goat milk which are easier to digest and more abundant in K2 (as well as other nutrients).

It’s important to know that a dry mouth is just as dangerous to teeth as eating sugary candy. Better hydration can make a huge difference when addressing dry mouth, along with optimal nasal breathing.

5. Remineralizing Toothpaste

A remineralizing toothpaste, especially with an “iffy” diet, can be a make-or-break ingredient to little cavity-free teeth.

Instead of fluoride toothpaste, I recommended hydroxyapatite toothpaste. Hydroxyapatite (HAp) is a form of calcium apatite, also known as calcium phosphate, and is a naturally occurring mineral that makes up our bones and teeth. It makes up over 90% of the foundation of your tooth’s enamel and 60% of your bones.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Even when lab-created, this important mineral can assist in strengthening, restoring, and even rebuilding your teeth and bones. Specifically, in dentistry, it has become a healthy alternative in toothpaste to fluoride thanks to its natural remineralizing and restorative properties.

In fact, a 2019 study demonstrates how a 10% hydroxyapatite toothpaste was able to successfully remineralize developing cavities and prevent demineralization equally as well as fluoride toothpaste.

My favorite HAp toothpaste for kids is Risewell’s Cake Batter toothpaste. For adults, try Boka’s Ela Mint or Coco Ginger toothpaste. They taste great, contain clean ingredients, and can protect your child’s teeth and your own from decay and disease

6. Better Snacking

Kids love to snack, there’s no doubt about that. However, is there a better way to snack? When it comes to dental health, the answer is definitely “yes!”

I always encourage my patients to avoid frequent snacking or grazing. Snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment. Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm teeth. This makes it more likely that you’ll develop tooth decay and cavities.

Snack smartly by limiting how often children snack between meals and keeping those snacks on the healthy side. Shoot for 2-3 hours between food with only plain water in between as much as possible.

This means saying “no” to foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes and flavorings, preservatives, and starches. These are the ingredients that contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth that attack tooth enamel and over time can cause cavities and other dental health concerns.

As a general rule, it is always best to choose whole foods such as fresh fruits, raw vegetables, high-quality meats and dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Is it time to see your dentist?

If your child has signs of a cavity or you’re not sure if that tooth spot is a cavity vs. a stain, it can’t hurt to see your dentist to evaluate the situation. Catching a dental cavity in the early stages is always ideal. Regular 6-month check-ups are still the gold-standard to stay on top of dental health and growth and development, too.

what does a cavity look like with tooth recently sealed

In some cases, you may choose to have dental sealants placed on your child’s teeth to prevent future tooth decay, particularly on the large chewing surfaces of their teeth. While sealants are controversial in biological dentistry, there are safer materials (read: BPA and phthalate-free) that can be used to protect teeth without causing unwanted side effects.

What a Cavity Looks Like On an X-Ray

what does a cavity look like with xray of cavity

Sometimes a cavity doesn’t have symptoms or it may look like a stain, but an x-ray can help get to the bottom of things.

What does a cavity look like between teeth, on the top of the teeth, or on the side? On a dental x-ray, a cavity typically appears as a dark area or shadow on a tooth.

What does a cavity filling look like? On an x-ray, a cavity filling shows up as a brighter spot on a tooth. So it’s not hard to tell the difference between a filling and a cavity on an x-ray.

what does a cavity look like with xray
Na’am, 2016

Preventing Cavities Before They Begin

Prevention is always the goal when it comes to oral health. It’s best to stop cavities from forming to begin with because it will always be cheaper, less traumatic, less uncomfortable or painful, and better for your systemic health to prevent cavities in the first place rather than trying to correct them.

But if your child does get a cavity, do NOT stress! Your pediatric dentist has you covered. We will just work with you as a member of the team to keep your children cavity-free moving forward. Onward and upward!

The tips to reverse cavities can also help to prevent cavities, so don’t forget how powerful diet and daily habits can be when it comes to your children’s oral hygiene! More on cavity reversal strategies coming soon!

As always, consult with your child’s physician prior to any supplementation changes.

Sources

  1. Nayak, P.A., Nayak, U.A., Khandelwal V., (2014) The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent, 6 (89-94). Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4232036/
  2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 2016. Hygiene-related Diseases. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/dental_caries.html
  3. Amaechi, B.T., AbdulAzees, P.A., Alshareif, D.O, Shehata, M.A., et al. (2019). Comparative efficacy of a hydroxyapatite and a fluoride toothpaste for prevention and remineralization of dental caries in children. BDJ Open, 5 (18). Full text: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41405-019-0026-8
  4. Paszynska, E., Pawinska, M., Gawriolek, M. et al. Impact of a toothpaste with microcrystalline hydroxyapatite on the occurrence of early childhood caries: a 1-year randomized clinical trial. Sci Rep 11, 2650 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81112-y
  5. Naam, J., Harlan, J., Madenda, S., & Wibowo, E. P. (2016). Identification of the proximal caries of dental x-ray image with multiple morphology gradient method. International Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology, 6(3), 343-346. Full text: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jufriadif_Naam/publication/304455631_Identification_of_the_Proximal_Caries_of_Dental_X-Ray_Image_with_Multiple_Morphology_Gradient_Method/links/57f467bc08ae280dd0b7461b/Identification-of-the-Proximal-Caries-of-Dental-X-Ray-Image-with-Multiple-Morphology-Gradient-Method.pdf

How Snacking Affects Your Teeth

How Snacking Affects Your TeethWe know that as a parent or caregiver, you want your children to achieve bright and healthy smiles. One of the ways you can help them get those perfect smiles is by choosing healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Healthy and nutritious meals play an important role not only in your children’s general health but also their energy and focus levels. However, it is not only what your children eat or drink that can affect their oral health, but how often they eat.

YOUR TEETH WHILE YOU EAT

When you eat or drink, the environment in your mouth becomes acidic as part of your body’s natural digestion process. Bacteria that live in the mouth break down sugars and starches while you eat and drink and produce acid, lowering the pH levels of the mouth.

The acid can attack your teeth’s enamel causing the enamel to weaken and eventually lead to tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Though it may only take a few seconds for the mouth’s levels to become acidic, it takes at least 20-30 minutes for your pH levels to neutralize once you finish eating and even longer to actively remineralize a heavy acid attack. We generally recommend 2-3 hrs between eating moments or eating on a schedule.  This process occurs no matter the size of the meal, whether a single chip or a full Thanksgiving feast. It will even happen while drinking most beverages (except water).

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR SNACKING?

Recently, studies have shown that frequent snacking or grazing is a major source of tooth decay which may result in enamel erosion and cavities. This is because snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment. Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm your teeth making it more likely for you to experience tooth decay and develop cavities.

Even if they are primary teeth, they play an important role in your children’s development by helping them chew and speak as well as shape their faces and act as placeholders for permanent teeth. Snacking smartly and practicing good oral hygiene habits will help your children protect their teeth.

SNACKING SMARTLY

Snack smartly by limiting how often children snack between meals and selecting healthy snack options. Foods high in refined sugar, refined flour,  unhealthy fats, food dyes and flavorings, and starches can contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth that attack tooth enamel and over time can cause cavities and other dental health concerns. As a general rule, it is always best to opt for the whole foods route with fresh fruits, raw vegetables, quality meats and dairy, nut and seeds, whole grains, and limited processed food products.

Qulaity dairy products such as milk and cheeses are excellent sources of calcium which help to build strong and healthy teeth. Cheese is also high in phosphorus which works to keep your children’s enamel strong and works to remove plaque from the surface of their teeth.

Fruits that are high in fiber such as apples and pears are considered nature’s toothbrushes and help to clean your teeth as you chew. Bananas, grapes, kiwis, and other berries are other healthy substitutes for desserts and easy to prepare. Be mindful of certain fruits as they can be high in sugars. Limit citrus fruits as they are high in acids and can erode tooth enamel, lead to cavities, and can increase tooth sensitivity.

Crunchy raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, green peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens are some of the best snacks for oral health. They are high in water content which helps to dilute natural sugars and high in fiber. Just like with fibrous fruits, these snacks will help to scrape away bad bacteria and food debris from your children’s teeth. Also, the crunchiness and need to chew a lot helps aid in the  development of the face, jaws, and airways.

Yogurt can be a great substitute for gelatin or pudding cups. Plain (ideally grass fed and finished) yogurt without added sugars and flavors is a great snack option and can be used as a base to which you can add your children’s favorite fruits or nuts. Yogurt also contains probiotics which can help get rid of bad bacteria in your children’s mouths.

GOOD ORAL HYGIENE PRACTICES

Regardless of the snack, always remember to have your children rinse their mouths after meals with water and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing as the acid can damage the teeth if brushed too soon. Have them brush twice a day for at least two minutes with a soft bristle brush in a circular motion along the teeth and gum line and floss at least once a day. For young children, parents or caregivers should help them brush and floss…my office rule is until TEN YEARS OLD children should have supervision.   As they age, you can allow them to do it themselves, but monitor or check afterward to make sure all the areas of their mouth are clean.

Children should come in every six months for routine examinations and professional cleanings so that we can monitor oral growth and development. For more information on how snacking can affect your children’s teeth, hygiene tips,  or to schedule an appointment, please contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today.

Breastfeeding and Cavities

Breastfeeding and CavitiesEarly childhood caries is of epidemic proportions, but such was not always the case. Looking at prehistoric and ancestral human skulls, it is noted how infrequent cavities were in ancestral humans. From what we know, modern humans have been around for about 100,00 years…but cavities have only been noted in anthropological specimens for the past 8,000-10,000 years. That means that babies who breastfed had little to no decay for about 92,000 years. So, what gives?

The cavity process is complicated. But from the latest research, we know IT IS NOT breastmilk by itself that causes cavities. Many mamas are told to stop breastfeeding because their children are a higher cavity risk. While I understand the reason that many providers advise this, we are not truly addressing or educating about the ROOT CAUSES. It is not the breastmilk itself, rather a perfect storm of events. Things that may be contributing to the “nursing caries” process:

PROCESSED FOODS:

The introduction of sugars and flours. This includes puffs, cereals, crackers, teething cookies, granola bars, pretzels, and most anything that comes from boxes and bags. It is generally after foods have been introduced that caries are noted.

DYSBIOSIS:

cavity-causing bacteria is CONTAGIOUS and most babies receive an introduction of these bad bacteria from their caregivers. It is important to get your own dental needs under control prior to having a baby, and if this isn’t an option, use things like baking soda rinses and avoid kissing and sharing cups and spoons if possible. Prebiotic and probiotics are also key.

YEAST:

Candida may be to blame. Again, a sign of dysbiosis or an imbalance between good and bad microbes in our oral cavity, yeast, and fungal microbes may be a big piece of this puzzle.

HYPOPLASTIC TEETH:

I am seeing more and more undermineralized or hypocalcified teeth in my practice. The reasons are hard to pin-point, but if seen in primary teeth it is an issue that arose in utero, or around 17-21 weeks post conception. It can be a result of an illness of the mother during this time, her exposure to certain medications or environmental toxins, depletion of critical nutrients like A, D, E, K, and calcium, or that her microbiome (gut, oral, even the placenta) is in dysbiosis. I tend to see more of this in second+ born children, very likely due to depleted mothers.

POOR HYGIENE PRACTICES:

Once food is introduced, it is critical to start hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing daily. Consider using hydroxyapatite toothpaste or baking soda slurries. Xylitol wipes are great after feedings in the middle of the night or after meals during the day when brushing and flossing are not an option.

LIP TIE:

Restricted labial frenums may contribute to decay on upper anterior teeth by allowing breastmilk to pool against already susceptible teeth, whether due to poor oral hygiene or under mineralized enamel.

MOUTH BREATHING:

babies and toddlers who mouth breath dry out their oral tissues, greatly contributing to increased cavity risk. Mothers with sleep-disordered breathing or apnea may be affecting their microbiome, too, continuing the issue with dysbiosis in their mouths and guts, or if pregnant, possibly in their placenta. More research on this is needed.

PREVENTION TIPS FOR EARLY CAVITIES:

Knowledge is power. Reading this two-part series of posts and applicable research will help you make choices to help prevent this heart-breaking and sadly, common disease.
Ideally, try to get your own oral health, gut health, and sleep/airway addressed prior to conceiving. If this is not possible, try to tackle them as best you can during pregnancy and after birth. Xylitol daily and baking soda can help create a more balanced oral microbiome, along with excellent hygiene, nutrient-dense foods (especially pre and probiotic-rich), and regular dental check-ups.

Eat nutrient-dense foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Focus on fat-soluble vitamins, probiotic-rich foods, lots of veggies, hydration, and quality sleep as best as you can. Read ‘The Dental Diet’ by @drstevenlin for more ideas.
Ask for help and create a tribe. Community is key and being a parent is really hard to do alone. Try to reach out to friends, family, and if you can, outside providers to offer support and care during pregnancy and after birth.

Establish a good hygiene routine as soon as a first tooth erupts. You can even start wiping gums prior to that, especially if you know your oral health and hygiene is not optimal.
Address mouth breathing or frenum restrictions early. Your pediatrician, pediatric dentist, IBCLC, or ENT can help guide you.

**PLEASE NOTE: this post and these studies are regarding BREASTMILK and Nursing, NOT FORMULA or COW’s MILK and babies and toddlers falling asleep with a bottle. I never advise letting baby or young child fall asleep with a bottle at bedtime**

Please see comments below for more research citations and references. DM if you’d like more on this topic.

Sending love to all you Mama-Bears (and Papas!) out there! You are doing a great job caring for and nurturing your babies and children.

With Love + Health,
Doctor Staci

RESOURCES:
1. The March/April 1999 issue of Pediatric Dentistry stated, “It is concluded that human breast milk is not cariogenic.” This study utilized extracted teeth to obtain most of its results and studied children only for determining the pH changes in dental plaque (Erickson 1999). A Finnish study could not find any correlation between caries and breastfeeding among children who were breastfed longer (up to 34 months) (Alaluusua 1990). Valaitis et al concluded from their studies, “In a systematic review of the research on early childhood caries, methodology, variables, definitions, and risk factors have not been consistently evaluated. There is not a constant or strong relationship between breastfeeding and the development of dental caries. There is no right time to stop breastfeeding, and mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed as long as they wish.” (Valaitis 2000)

2. Dr. Brian Palmer states in his paper that, “Human milk alone does not cause dental caries. Infants exclusively breastfed are not immune to decay due to other factors that influence the infant’s risk for tooth decay. Decay causing bacteria (streptococcus mutans) is transmitted to the infant by way of parents, caregivers, and others” (Palmer 2002).

3. The other foods in baby’s diet and not breast milk that are responsible for supporting the tooth decay process. The P.R. Erickson study Investigation of the role of human breast milk in caries development. Pediatric Dent 1999 (healthy teeth were placed in different solutions) indicated that breast milk alone was virtually identical to water and found not to cause tooth decay. Another experiment demonstrated that the teeth became stronger when immersed in breast milk, but after a small amount of sugar was added to the breast milk, the mixture became greater than a sugar solution in terms of causing tooth decay. This study stresses the importance of tooth brushing and good dental hygiene not only for our babies, but for all of us. All are excerpts from research, presentations, and publications by Brian Palmer, DDS

4. https://c1-preview.prosites.com/27469/wy/docs/Nursing%20Caries.pdf

5. Iida H, Auinger P, Billings RJ, Weitzman M. Association between infant breastfeeding and early childhood caries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e944–52 10.1542/peds.2006-0124 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

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OTHER RESOURCES:
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3895827/
https://www.dentalproductsreport.com/view/study-finds-yeast-bacteria-interaction-may-be-causing-tooth-decay-toddlers
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828948/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26418916/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3798583/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26206663/

Open-Mouth Breathing and Your Child’s Oral Health

Open-Mouth Breathing and Your Child’s Oral Health
Have you noticed that your child is a mouth-breather, even without a cold or stuffy nose? Although this may not seem to be cause for concern, chronic open-mouth posture or mouth- breathing can be a sign of sleep-disordered breathing, tethered oral tissues, oromyofunctional imbalances, and other conditions that can significantly impact your child’s oral health.

Sleep Disordered Breathing

Sleep disorder breathing includes a spectrum of disorders including snoring, loud breathing, open-mouth breathing and sleep apnea. These conditions are often overlooked and left untreated. However, in many cases, they are signs of changes in your child’s health. Continuously breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can impact your child’s growth and development and their oral health and is a common cause of dental cavities within children. We encourage parents to check for signs of mouth breathing and snoring so that we can begin diagnosing the root causes and sending your child to the appropriate specialists promptly.

The importance of treatment

The jaw and tongue are used primarily for eating, speaking, and swallowing. When incorporated into the breathing process repeatedly, posture begins to be altered. This can be important as a majority of children’s craniofacial growth occurs between birth and the age of 12. Chronic mouth breathing can pull the jaw and tongue into lower positions leading to facial malformation, malocclusions, and compromised airways.

Causes

Open-mouth breathing is often an indication of a problem within the nasal passageway, the posterior pharynx, or within the oral cavity (or often a combo!). Children may not be able to recognize this as a problem as they do not understand the risks it can pose to their growth and development and often do not even realize they are doing it. Common causes of open-mouth breathing can include parafunctional habits, allergies, chronic nasal congestion, inflamed sinus tissue, a deviated septum, tongue-tie, jaw relationship and shape issues, and promotor dysfunctions. All these conditions can make it difficult to breathe through the nose, resulting in open-mouth breathing.

Symptoms

Though open-mouth breathing may seem harmless, as a long-term habit it can lead to health issues such as:

  • Bruxism or teething grinding
  • Crowded teeth
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular bite
  • Jaw pain
  • Morning headaches
  • Poor facial development such as long face syndrome
  • Poor memory or ability to focus, sometimes mimicking ADHD
  • Restless sleep
  • Sleep deprivation

Did you know that open-mouth breathing can lead to an increased risk of developing gingivitis and tooth decay? Chronic mouth breathing reduces the amount of saliva and disrupts the oral microbiome within the mouth, which is important to neutralizing dangerous acids and washing away harmful bacteria. Without it, the risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation significantly increases.

Treatment

As stated above, the most important thing you can do as a parent or guardian is to note the signs and symptoms and bring them to your pediatric dentist or pediatrician’s attention. By paying close attention and seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment early, we can often treat the issue before these symptoms progress resulting in long-term issues.

Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of your child’s mouth breathing. We will make sure to work with your child’s healthcare team to determine the best treatment for your child. In cases of allergies or nasal and airway obstructions, your child’s primary care doctor or an ENT will be the best at determining the right treatment. However, dental treatment can include palatal expanders and other functional dental appliances to help keep your child’s development on track and encourage him or her to breathe through their nose. Regular dental cleanings and maintaining proper oral hygiene can help to reduce plaque buildup and prevent gingivitis from developing as a result of open-mouth breathing. Be sure to see your dentist regularly as these issues can arise in later childhood and teen years, too! We all want your children to thrive and periodically monitoring their growth and development is key!

With Love + Health,
Doctor Staci and the NoPo Kids Team

A Cavity-Free Halloween!

A Cavity-Free Halloween!Fall into October and get ready for a Spooktacular Halloween! This is one holiday that many children (and grown-ups like myself!) look forward to all year. Families pick and decorate pumpkins, some create and wear creative costumes, and many end the night with a fun-filled jaunt of trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treating can be loads of fun, but we understand that many parents worry about the effect the larger amounts of candy and treats can have on teeth. We also know most children won’t stop at just one sugary treat on Halloween and, honestly, that’s okay! As long as you create a solid plan ahead of time and maintain proper dental hygiene, your teeth will be happy and healthy after all of the fun and festivities.

To help you navigate the night, we’ve decided to offer you a few recommendations and tips for how to be cavity-free this Halloween.

Make a Plan Ahead of time!

Before you begin all of your Halloween activities, be sure to set some candy guidelines rules. Kids are often okay with rules as long as they know them in advance. If you set a candy limit, be sure to try and stick to it! Make a decision on how many pieces your child can have Halloween night and the subsequent nights following. Try to encourage more chocolatey treats (dark chocolate is my fave!) and less sticky and gummy ones as chocolate will be more likely to melt off from teeth and be less cavity-causing. There are also great Xylitol options out there now which actually help inhibit bacteria-causing cavities. Dr. John’s is one of my go-to’s and they are actually having a Halloween sale right now, so check it out!

Carry water with you all night while out trick-or-treating and offer it after any candy and this will help rinse sugars and acids of the teeth. And of course, please FLOSS and BRUSH well that night before bed with nothing but water after.

The best time to eat candy is after a meal, so try to plan your candy-dispensing-fun after Halloween night around a meal. Salvia production increases while we eat and helps counteract the harmful bacteria.

We understand that with the pandemic, trick-or-treating may be a little different this year. Please remember to wear your mask and practice social distancing, even if just visiting friends or family (your pods). If you are going out at night, be sure to be bright! A light-up necklace, glow sticks, or reflective tape can be the difference between safe and injured.

Tooth-Friendly Candy Swaps

If you are giving out treats this year or want to provide some tooth-friendly alternatives for your own children, here are some of our fave recommendations…

Consider getting creative with fruits like by making fun fruit-sticks with items like grapes, berries, apples and bananas…all which are nutritious and better for your children’s oral health.

Another option for candy swaps are non-food alternatives such as Halloween-themed toys, glow sticks, bubble wands, and temporary tattoos. These options are inexpensive and fun for kids without the added sugar! Also, consider given out pocket change that you have collected from the year…a neighbor used to do this when I was a kid and she had a line down her driveway of kids waiting to grab a handful of peenies and the occasional nickel or quarter.

If you really want to give out consider chocolate especially dark chocolate. More on this below….

During the night

While you are out trick or treating, it is important to practice proper road safety. Obey all traffic laws and stay close to children on busy roads. Be aware of your surroundings and always look both ways before crossing.

Now onto the important part: candy! Be mindful of which candy you eat as each can affect your teeth differently.

Sticky and gummy candies can be messy and harder to clean off not only fingers but also your teeth. Sour candies tend to be very acidic, that’s why you pucker! However, that acid can break down the enamel on your teeth, making them more prone to cavities. The same can be said for sticky and chewy candies that can stick around between your teeth increasing the chance of a cavity. Candy doesn’t have to be harmful to your teeth if you practice moderation.

Chocolate is your best bet on a happy Halloween. Not only is it sweet, but it washes off your teeth easier than other candies. Baked goods without sticky dried fruit, gelatin treats, fruits, ice cream, popsicles, and yogurt are also tooth-friendly treats.

Remember to stay hydrated during the night by drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth clean between candy breaks. This also helps keep those sugars off your teeth.

Once you get home

If you’ve made a candy plan, be sure to stick to it. Everything in balance is OK and candy is no exception. Be sure to check candy ingredients for any that may be harmful to your child.

Unsure of what to do with all that candy? If you don’t want to eat it all, we understand and can help point you in other directions. Try a candy switch in your house, trade candies for prizes such as books or small toys. You can also donate your candy to appropriate organizations to help give out candy to others.

We understand that it can be tempting to just go to bed after such a fun night, but this is the one night you should prioritize brushing and flossing.

Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria. Those harmful bacteria love candy as much as you do! While the bacteria may eat the left-over sugar in your mouth, they also produce acids that contribute to the formation of cavities, so it is super important that on a big night such as Halloween that you remember to brush and floss! We recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after a candy binge as the candy can leave your teeth’s enamel sensitive and demineralized and brushing right away may do more harm than good. Flossing is just as important as it cleans those areas between your teeth that toothbrushes can’t reach.

For more tips on how to keep your family cavity-free this Halloween or to book an exam after your Halloween fun, contact our office at info@nopokids.com or call 971-978-0009.

Thumb-Sucking and Pacifier Usage

Is your child a habitual thumb-sucker or pacifier user? Are pacifiers and thumb-sucking always a bad thing? Like many parents, you may be concerned about your child’s habit and wonder if it is truly harmful.

Questions like “what age should the habit be broken” and “what will happen if my child does not stop” may arise in your head. Though these habits may be soothing to infants and young children, continuing past a certain age can cause many oral health concerns and should be discussed.
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IT’S NATURAL

Pacifiers, thumb-sucking, or finger-sucking are not entirely bad habits. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry understands and recognizes that thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, and pacifier usage is normal for infants and young babies. This habit often begins in the womb and continues after birth to help babies to feel happy and safe as they explore their new world.

However, we do like to see the pacifier eliminated as soon as possible, with the AAP and most sleep and airway specialists likely to see if gone by 6 months old after SIDS risk has dropped!! The sooner the better to avoid emotional attachment.

The thumb is trickier, but most children will drop it on their own by 4-5 years old. If I could wave a magic wand, I would have these habits stop as early as possible, but alas, no magic here…yet At NoPo Kids we offer many pacifiers and thumb-sucking elimination strategies to families, from cold-turkey with pacifiers, to a positive-reinforcement program for the thumb, so be sure to ask more about this at your appointment!

HOW DOES IT AFFECT MY CHILD’S TEETH AND JAWS?

As your child grows, thumb-sucking and pacifier usage may cause problems with the proper growth and development of his or her mouth. These include jaw misalignment, tooth decay, palate narrowing, slanting of teeth, mouth sores, and altered bites or malocclusions. As a result, children may have speech issues, difficulty eating, start mouth breathing or snoring, an possibly have sleep-disordered breathing issues. It can be a really big deal, with concerns going far beyond esthetics, involving actual function and airway development. Children who continue thumb-sucking and pacifier usage into childhood are more likely to need orthodontic treatment, myofunctional therapy, and/or speech therapy.

HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD BREAK THIS HABIT?

As mentioned above, it is a normal habit developed in the womb and seen as a method of soothing or calming oneself. Every child is different so there may be a period of trial and error as you find a method that works for your child. Remember to be patient as he or she discovers a new way to be calmed. Also, it is key to find a time that is emotionally right for your family. I would suggest avoiding elimination strategies around any travel, moving, life stressors, or big changes like a new sibling, or if sleep or potty training. There will be a sweet spot to start the process of getting habits to drop and you will know when the time is right for you and your child.

We have a few considerations and tips you can use to discourage your child from sucking on his or her thumb, pacifier, or fingers.

  • Use positive reinforcement. If your child accomplishes a task without sucking on his or her thumb or pacifier, show praise for doing a good job. Charts are amazing tools here and we have some available for you here on our website or in the office.
  • Often these habits are used to comfort or soothe a child during stressful times. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety and provide alternate forms of comfort such as a special toy, blanket, or a Myomunchee. Sing a happy song or read a story to soothe him or her into a state of comfort.
  • For older children, involve them in the process. Discuss with them why they should stop so that they understand the reasoning behind your discouragement.
  • For the thumb, little reminders or distractors help, like bandaids, thumb-gloves, silicone chew necklaces, fidget spinners, or Myomucnhees.

We are here for you and your child. Contact us if you have any questions, concerns, or if you would like us to aid in encouraging your child to stop their pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. And remember, your child will not graduate college sucking on their paci or fingers…promise!
For more information on the effects of thumb-sucking and pacifier usage, contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today.