What To Do If Your Child Has Early Childhood Caries (ECC)

Bad cavities can happen to healthy families. Most of the people I consult with are shocked to discover their toddler has cavities. They are stunned and confused, since they have healthy diets, breast-feed their babies, and subscribe to natural medicines and organic lifestyles.

The myth that must be broken is that flossing and brushing will stop cavities. Even if it were possible to brush and floss perfectly, only 40 percent of plaque can be removed by mechanical cleaning. No toothbrush bristle can clean the tiny grooves of molar teeth – which are the most vulnerable areas for cavities and the place bacteria lodge and colonize. In fact, studies show that the kind of bacteria in these molar grooves, usually dominates the mouth’s ecology. If healthy bacteria set up “home” in the molar grooves, healthy bacteria will likely protect the mouth for years, possibly for life.

For an infant or toddler with cavities, I recommend frequent applications of small amounts of xylitol, wiped or brushed onto teeth during the day, to rid the mouth of harmful bacteria and promote healthy ones. Morning and night, moisten a soft toothbrush with one drop of bubblegum ACT rinse and brush the affected teeth with this. The benefit of combining a little fluoride with some xylitol has been shown to speed healing and repair enamel. A children’s Nimbus brush is very soft and is excellent for this purpose. For an older child, or if cavities are more severe, a rice-grain amount of Crest Original toothpaste can be brushed or wiped over affected teeth to speed enamel healing.

Not only does xylitol eradicate unhealthy plaque from teeth but it also cleans away harmful bacteria from other places in the mouth and even from saliva. As xylitol dissolves in the mouth it penetrates the grooves of molar teeth and dislodges dangerous bacteria while promoting healthy, protective ones. It is important that your child has healthy mouth when teeth erupt – baby teeth and adult ones. This method of preparing the mouth for the eruption of teeth has been called prevention using “windows of opportunity” – using the eruption of teeth as special moments when a good diet and xylitol can affect a child’s dental health for life. Baby molars erupt in the second year of life, and adult molars often begin to erupt around 4 years old.

Remember to clean family toothbrushes with Listerine, rinse and store so they dry completely between uses – preferably in sunlight. Bacteria die when they dry!

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Zellies.com – learn more & order your Zellies Xylitol & the Complete Mouth Care System
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8 thoughts on “What To Do If Your Child Has Early Childhood Caries (ECC)

  1. My 15 month old has recently been diagnosed with several cavities and I am devastated. We are the people you describe — healthy diet, frequent brushing, nursing, etc. I thought we were doing everything right. We are making some dietary changes (limiting carbs, fruits only at meals, more dairy/protein, HVBO/FCLO), have added daily dosages of xylitol and I have put Crest Original on the shopping list… Dad (who has not-so-great teeth) and I are also working on our dental health. I have read on some of your other blog posts that healing my daughter’s cavities is possible, it can take up to 6 months, and it may look worse before it gets better, but how long does it take to kill the bacteria and stop the decay? I ask because I want to know how long it takes before we know if it is working. We have been told she needs GA and several fillings, and this worries me, but I also don’t want to do something ‘untraditional’ and have it not work… resulting in her needing root canals or caps because we waited too long and the cavities got worse. I am scared for her dental health and do not want to make the wrong choice. Thank you!

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    1. I am sorry to hear about your daughter. We are working on a gallery of pictures – children with similar cavities who were told they needed to have a general anesthetic and crowns etc. These parents chose to use a disciplined approach with xylitol and use Crest and ACT applied to the affected teeth. Bits of enamel have broken off some of the teeth – but they were able to wait and avoid treatment.

      The question will be if you are comfortable with the appearance of damaged teeth for your child – from now until she is either old enough to sit in the chair ( about 3 or 4 years old). Many adults seek the “perfect” white smile ( regardless of the damage they are doing to their natural teeth) and some parents who would rather their children have “perfect” crowns and not brown teeth ( regardless of the risk that a general anesthetic poses to the child).

      I know the choice I would make for my child. I would never rush into a hospital for this. I would demand a second opinion – or at least ask the dentist if there is any chance I could wait – even 6 months or a year? Most dentists have never seen arrested cases (when parents used xylitol and a useful toothpaste). It can be done – but you will not hear this from many dentists.

      Another option is to find a dentist who uses ozone. You can combine ozone therapy with the advice that I give. Ozone therapy will cost money, but it is a rapid way to arrest decay instantly. I believe similar results can be achieved with xylitol. This is a decision you may have to make, and please let me know if you need additional help. (email me at ellie@zellies.com and I will offer to look at photos if you have some).

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  2. Dr. Ellie,I am so thankful for finding your website. You see I have a little grandson about 2 and a half years old and his top 4 front teeth have cavities really bad. Even starting to break off. Of course the dentist will cap them,but he will not sit there for him to fix them,so only other alternative is to put him to sleep or pull them out,which his mother will have no part of… much too dangerous just to fix his teeth.We have found on your site where to put the Act on his teeth and do the xylitol,but we read another mothers story on here and she put xylitol crystals in his drinks,but she doesnt say how much or often. Could you please help us and tell us exactly what you would do for him. Thanks so much, Teresa

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    1. I agree that sedation is serious and dangerous – and too many parents agree to this treatment – thinking there are no other options.
      Keep in mind that a child will usually cooperate in the dental chair by 4 years old – so our goal is to stop any more damage from decay and strengthen the child’s teeth for 2 years. When your grandson is 4, his mouth will be healthy – and this damage will be easily fixed (if necessary).

      Zellies Polar Bears were designed for toddlers. Each bear has 1.3 grams of xylitol – so 3 or 4 bears eaten after meals each day will give a child 4-5 grams of xylitol with very little effort. Try to keep juices or any drink other than water to mealtimes – and end with a ZellieBear.

      It’s best if teeth experience xylitol 5 times each day – so add a time or two when you wipe the teeth with a solution of granular xylitol ( put half a teaspoon in enough water to dissolve the crystals and wipe this over the teeth). Alternatively you could dip a toothbrush into the granules, and let your grandson suck the toothbrush. He will basically suck about 1 or 2 grams of xylitol off the brush and onto these front teeth.

      If your grandson is cooperative, the other thing to do is wipe or brush a little Crest Cavity Protection toothpaste onto these teeth – especially at night before sleep. I’d suggest a rice-grain amount of paste with a drop of ACT over it – to help mask the taste. The Crest toothpaste has added ingredients that strengthen teeth ( which ACT does not contain). If he does not like the taste – go back to using ACT alone to brush his teeth.

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  3. Dr. Ellie,
    I could use your advice. My 5-year-old son (with just his baby teeth) has a hole in his first molar. I took him to a pediatric dentist who took xrays of his whole mouth and said he probably needed a root canal and filling in the adjacent tooth because the cavity had affected both teeth. She also said he had cavities inbetween every single one of his teeth, and that one on his lateral incisor in particular looked like it was close to the nerve. When i took him to his appointment to get the tooth with the obvious hole filled, he got scared once she put the rubber dam on, he cried, and she refused to work on him unless he was under general anesthesia (which I refuse to allow).

    So, I took him to a second dentist. The first dentist forwarded my son’s xrays and he agreed my son needed to be put under GA without even looking at my son but because he knew my son is scared of the dentist. And, he said my son needed additional xrays of his entire mouth since the first dentist’s images were not good.

    Not happy with the idea of submitting my son to more radiation, nor the idea that i need him to have GA, I took my son to a third dentist. I didn’t tell this dentist about the first 2 visits, and allowed him to only take an xray of the area with the obvious hole. He said my son probably needs a root canal, but that the adjacent tooth has a soft spot that he’d just watch but doesn’t need to be filled. We have an appointment to get my son’s cavity filled next week, and I’m crossing my fingers that my son doesn’t freak out so that they can actually complete the work this time.

    My son has been using your system for about a month already now, but he omits the listerine rinse step.

    So my questions are … will my son get the full benefits of your system if he continues to eliminate the listerine step?

    Second, if all goes well on the tooth that needs the filling/root canal in the coming week, should I have the first dentist send the third dentist the xrays that have already been taken, and see what he says about the other teeth (especially the lateral incisor she noted)? Or, should I let the third dentist take new xrays of his own now since the second dentist said the first xrays weren’t good to begin with? Or, do you think it would be ok to wait 6 months (or even a year) and have the third dentist take new xrays and see if there has been any improvement?

    My insurance only covers xrays once per year, but even more important than the cost is that I want to avoid radiation exposure on my child as much as possible. Yet I’m wondering how long I can hold off if there really are big holes in all of his other teeth — I don’t want the area on the lateral incisor to get worse and possibly need a root canal by waiting. And I also don’t want my son to undergo GA and force him to have unnecessary fillings/treatment on his baby teeth since they’ll fall out at some point too.

    Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

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    1. Wow. So sorry to read your story and I would like to help you – but I’d need to see a picture of these teeth ( not an X ray – a photo – if you can find a way to email this to me.)
      Contact us through DrECoaching and someone will help you reach me by email. If I can take a look and see these teeth I may be able to give you some thoughts how to proceed.

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  4. HI Dr. Ellie,
    Thank you so much for your work. After years of cavities, hard work and a lot of time and money trying to improve my teeth and gums , they seem to finally be healing by following your system. My question is this. A few years ago I purchased an emident toothbrush. I continue to use it since using your system but I use the crest toothpaste rather than the prescribed special bubble toothpaste. What do you think of this brush?
    Thank you,
    Nancy

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