The story is long and you may not want to read it so I'll start with:
1) Exposure to heavy metals prenatally or during childhood may disrupt the mineralization of teeth. Houses built before 1978 may have lead paint on the exterior, on the porch, on the windows, and in the soil surrounding the home. Pregnant women and children under 6 absorb more lead than older kids and adults. Heavy metals can displace absorption of necessary minerals.
2) Think germs cause tooth decay? Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. Your "germ-killing" may do more harm than good. Check into oral probiotics.
3) Don't do things that are harmful to your health to try to save your teeth. It's like bashing yourself in the head with a hammer when you have a headache. Things I won't personally do or have my children do... fluoride, amalgam, eating animal products.
4) If you're going to insist on composite fillings, go to someone who has extensive experience doing that kind of work. If the dentist you go to does amalgam all day, they probably don't know the techniques to make composite work effectively.
5) If your child 4 or under needs more than one cavity filled, insist that they do only one tooth at a time. Kids just can't sit very long with their mouth opened. Then you get into the territory of holding them down while they scream. I am finally going to take my son to get put to sleep and have all of the rest of the major work he needs done at once. He just can't handle any more and has become very resistant to even opening his mouth at all at the dentist. Having general anesthesia is a risk, but I don't see another option at this point. For small children, they will require that this is done in a hospital where they can resuscitate them if necessary.
6) There is a nonvegan re-mineralization paste out there called MI Paste Recaldent. I am searching for a vegan option. Maybe somebody with a science background can invent a vegan product? Or maybe we can come up with a homemade remineralization paste?
7) Nobody really agrees or has much evidence about what causes tooth decay. Most dentists blame genetics.
8) Ozone therapy? This one holistic dentist said it's a good idea to use it before an area is filled in order to lessen the chance of decay under the filling. I have no idea if it works, but it seems totally non-toxic and risk-free, so why not try it?
My 3 year-old has had a lot of dental problems.
When his baby teeth came in, the top teeth looked very pretty and bright white. Little did I know that this was a sign that they did not have much enamel.
He was solely breastfed, including at night for pretty much the first year of his life. Many dentists will tell you nursing at night is bad for the teeth. It may or may not be, but not nursing at night is very bad for breastfeeding and for your child's health. Please do NOT night wean your child, even if their teeth start to go bad.
I did not really practice much dental hygiene with him for his first year of life. Why? Well, he didn't want to let me brush his teeth and I would actually have to hold him down and push the toothbrush into his mouth forcefully, and even then, I couldn't get much brushing done. And I thought, really, for thousands of years people didn't brush their teeth, why is it necessary?
His top teeth started rotting immediately. By 1 year old, his front top four teeth had massive caries. I avoided the dentist because I had already been with my older child and it was very difficult to get them not to use fluoride and to use composite fillings rather than amalgam. Also, I was concerned about the effect of Novacaine and other medications on the health of my son since he was so small. My older child did not get any dental work until she was 5 years old. And I had not let them drill/ fill her two front teeth since she was going to lose them soon. They were not happy, but sure enough she lost them before she had any pain or infection. Her adult teeth seem to be o.k. so far.
I was curious why my two older children had no problems with their teeth and my youngest two had lots of problems. I did some research. The best information I could find (that seemed to fit with my beliefs) was that exposure to lead prenatally can cause serious problems with enamelization. I had been exposed to a lot of lead for three years without knowing it, during which time I had my older daughter. Obviously, it doesn't just leave the body totally, so it could have affected my son as well, I reasoned. My diet had not really changed that much... I never have successfully transitioned to 100% raw vegan. If anything my diet was slightly less junky and more healthful with my younger children's pregnancies, but not perfect in any way. I have never been 100% vegan in any of my pregnancies, although I was much closer during my last one. I've always eaten a decent amount of greens pretty much every day since I was a kid, actually. We ate a salad every day at dinner and I never lost the habit, and had increased the amount of both raw and cooked greens I ate over time.
I should say that I have told 5 dentists my theory about lead, some of them traditional dentists and some of them holistic dentists, and all of them either dismissed it or made no comment whatsoever. Every dentist I have seen said, "Genetics." They also asked if I gave him juice in a sippy cup (no). A couple made the case against night-time nursing, but again, how can that physiologically make any sense?
I finally decided to take my son to the dentist at age 2, because of the extent of the decay, and it was a huge ordeal. I could not find a dentist to work on a child that small who also took our medical card. By the time the health department in a nearby county opened up a dental service that took the card and would see a little one, he was 2 1/2. His front four top teeth were totally brown and he had cavities in all of his back top teeth. Interestingly, his bottom teeth were fine and remain so. So if it's genetics, bacteria, diet, lack of brushing/ flossing, nursing at night... pretty weird that in the same mouth, his top teeth are rotten and his bottom teeth are fine.
Anyway, the dentist wanted to try to save the front teeth. Then I told her no amalgam. She looked a bit panicked, but said that she would do pulpotomies, drill away the decay, put composite on the outside of them. It wouldn't last very long, she said, but at least he could keep the teeth a little longer in order to develop speech. I was thinking she meant a year or two. Really what she did only lasted 4 months. But he did develop a lot more speech during that time. The problem was that he had to have 4 appointments to do the repairs. Each one took 1-2 hours (2 hours is WAY too long, but by the time the dentist realized she had bitten off more than she could chew, the teeth were drilled and had to be filled). He screamed and was held down through about 75% of it, with me holding him and empathizing with him to mitigate some of it. Don't worry, the dentist said, he's so young, he won't even remember. Um, no. Now, he's terrified of opening his mouth at the dentist.
After 4 months, one of his front teeth developed an abscess. I was worried that they were going to force antibiotics on us. Instead, they immediately yanked out three out of four of the front teeth. Yanking out teeth only takes a few minutes. My child was scared, but had no pain and it was over quickly. If I had known then what I know now... I might have just had her yank out the highly rotten teeth in the very beginning.
Then after a few more months, all of his composite fillings in the back teeth fell out. I decided then and there that I couldn't go back to that dentist. Not that she was bad. She just didn't have adequate training or practice working with that material.
I found a holistic dentist to take him to, but after driving 100 miles to see him and paying $70 out of pocket, he couldn't convince my child to open his mouth. He referred me to a pediatric dentist and assured me that they used no amalgam in their practice. (Odd, they are not a holistic dentist and they do not ADVERTISE that they use no amalgam, but they don't.) This dentist was 120 miles away, in the labyrinthine suburbs that I dread driving in... (I did get lost, and then my car broke down on the way home, but that's another story.) And again, I was just terrified of what this was going to cost me, since they didn't accept my medical card.
Lo and behold, they were the answer to prayers. They knew how to calm a scared child and get him to open his mouth. They explained that the general dentist we had seen did not know how to anchor the composite fillings properly. They said things that made sense to me... For example, they said that a healthy bacteria balance in the mouth is essential. They suggested oral probiotics. They said it looks like the top teeth never mineralized properly and that started the problems. So they suggested a paste to remineralize the teeth. Unfortunately, it is not vegan, so I am searching for a vegan alternative. They also agreed to take the medical card and told me that they are going to do all the work in one shot at a hospital in my old neighborhood in Chicago. Yeah, it's far, but I know exactly how to get there.