There are a lot of days when it just doesn’t seem worth it. On some days, I genuinely wonder why we don’t buy milk in jugs from the store and get packaged meals a couple of times a week.
Then, this past Monday happened.
All three of the boys had dentist appointments. I always dread taking them, not because they’re poorly behaved (they’re always very well behaved at the dentist), but because somebody always, ALWAYS, has cavities.
I remember the first time we were told that one of our boys had a couple cavities. The dentist must have been able to tell that I was distraught, because she gently told me that she could tell that his teeth were well cared for, as they were clean and had no plaque build up. Our kids just have soft enamels that are prone to tooth decay.
Every dentist visit over the last 2 years has brought more bad news. After each appointment, new dental regimens arose with heightened determination. More tooth brushing. Mouthwash. Flossing. A set of brushes and toothpaste at Grandma and Grandpa’s. All implemented, and I went to our cleanings in the spring feeling confident – this time, there would be no cavities! And yet…there were.
I was pretty defeated as I drove them home following the latest damage report. We’d been following a stringent oral care routine, we never have soda at home (and rarely other places), our intake of sweets is pretty low, and we have juice only occasionally. Sure, you can tell me they have soft enamel, but after all that effort – no improvement? Really?!
So, this past Monday I was on pins and needles as they got their regular cleanings. I was positive the dentist was going to have more bad news. Not just because she always has bad news, but since the last time we’ve had a bit of a backslide. Of course they still brushed regularly, but I may have forgotten to pick up more mouthwash after the last bottle ran out. And we’d been slacking on the daily flossing as well. It hadn’t seemed to have made a difference, so I sort of had this sense of ‘why bother’? As I sat waiting to hear the dreaded response, I was sure our day of reckoning had come and I’d be hit with the news of a half dozen new cavities.
And… wait for it…
No new cavities! For ANYONE!
I was reveling in our stroke of dumb luck and talking about it with Steve. I thought the switch to raw milk probably had a lot to do with it – while there have never been actual studies, there is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that raw milk can help with oral health. Steve pointed out that it might also have to do with other changes we’ve made in the way we’re eating. I was a bit skeptical of that, because though Steve and I have made significant dietary shifts, the kids’ changes haven’t been as seismic as ours have been. He disagreed, pointing out that in addition to no longer drinking pasteurized milk, we’ve changed a lot of the foods that we buy. Everything ranging from spaghetti sauce to salsa to peanut butter has been swapped in favor of brands that don’t add sweeteners, or favor more complex sugars like honey and raw cane sugar.
It makes sense.
Sure, people lost teeth in generations past, but really, how did we make it thousands of years without toothbrushes? Steve said that In Defense of Food has a whole section talking about the effects of eating processed foods on dentition, and how some cultures that only eat real foods have very little tooth decay in spite of never having brushed their teeth before.
Sugar is everywhere in our food supply, and yet all this time we’ve been wondering why our kids have been having tooth problems. I mean, really, if EVERYTHING we eat has added sugar, aren’t we doomed to fail? We’d been buying only Classico tomato basil sauce, because it had no added sugar. Well, we just discovered that they’ve changed their recipe and it now includes… sugar. (Apparently we’re not the only ones unhappy about this, there are multiple complaints about the switch in reviews on their website) Of course, it’s not just sauces. Among many other things, Steve and I have found sugar in shredded potatoes, tinned crab meat, crackers, and ranch dressing; all things that aren’t really supposed to be sweet. And don’t even get me started on trying to find bacon or sausage without sugar! Personally, I’d much rather get my daily allowance of sugar in a bowl of ice cream and leave it out of my potatoes.
So, in spite of the moments when we wonder if we’ve gotten in over our heads with all the goat milking, the meal planning, the chicken tending, the cooking, and the barn cleaning, there IS a reason for it. I never thought a trip to the dentist would be the thing that made me realize how much good these efforts have brought!