Contrary to popular belief (and probably even your dentist’s beliefs) the secret to healthy teeth does not lie in regular brushing and flossing. It may be hygienically desirable to clean your teeth (I’m sure your friends and family will agree), but neither brushing nor flossing, alone, will keep cavities at bay, no matter what the tooth-paste manufacturer tries to tell you.
We were designed to have strong healthy teeth throughout the duration of our entire lives. Dentists did not exist for the vast majority of our evolution and yet we survived just fine without them. We also survived just fine without Colgate Triple Action Cavity Control Fresh Stripe tooth-paste. Not only did we survive but, in most traditional hunter-gatherer societies around the world, there was no such thing as tooth decay.
One of the leading pioneers in dental health, Weston A Price, was curious about the increasing levels of tooth decay in the west (despite increasing dental hygiene) and wanted to get to the bottom of why this was the case. He spent years traveling around the world observing the diets, life-styles and nutrition of various primitive cultures (the Lötschental in Switzerland, Native Americans, Polynesians, Pygmies, and Aborigines, among many others) for whom dental cavities were all but non-existent, and he sought to understand the reasons behind their incredible dental health. His findings showed certain commonalities, across each of these cultures, in terms of their nutrition. Despite living in very different environments, and eating different foods, they all had diets rich in certain nutrients and low in processed western foods. He noted that in each of these cultures, as soon as they became exposed to western foods (flour, concentrated sugars, vegetable oils, canned foods etc), they experienced a devastating decline in dental health. Their overall health suffered and rampant tooth decay became common.
Another dentist, Melvin Page took this further and discovered that tooth cavities and decay occur as a result of imbalances in the calcium and phosphorous metabolism in our bodies. He found that correcting these imbalances through diet resolved the problems in dental health.
Yet another dentist, Ralph Steinman, together with John Leonora, found that our dental health is strongly determined by our glandular health – specifically the hypothalamus in the brain and the parotid glands in the jaw. These control decay (or not) depending on the flow of fluids through the microscopic channels in our teeth themselves.
So all this is well and good – but how does this translate into practice?
All of these studies and observations led to one basic conclusion:
Tooth decay is not only preventable, but also reversible, if we learn to eat how our bodies are meant to eat.
It is not so much about keeping our teeth clean. This is the cosmetic approach touted by most dentists nowadays. That, if we manage to keep oral bacteria at bay, we will somehow keep tooth decay at bay. Yet, despite people brushing their teeth with the fanciest toothpastes, flossing with the finest floss, and using the most vibrating of toothbrushes, we see incidences in tooth decay continue to run rampant in the world.
As far as food goes, it is less about what happens within our mouths, and far more about what happens within our bodies as a result of these foods. It is about how they effect the mineral balances in our cells and the functioning of our glandular systems, which then leave us either vulnerable to decay or not. Many of the cultures observed by Weston A Price did not even own toothbrushes. They did nothing to “kill germs” in their mouths, and yet they had perfect hard white teeth.
So what dietary changes have been proven to be effective? Basically, returning to an unprocessed, whole-food way of eating that we talk about so much. We need to eliminate inflammatory foods and make sure we are consuming plenty of nutrient-dense foods that foster systemic health and supply us with the vitamins and minerals so vital to our bones and teeth.
Here are some of the most important changes you can make to prevent and reverse tooth decay:
1. Avoid processed foods
Processed grains, breakfast cereals, bagels, pasta and bread of any kind (yes, even whole-wheat) cause huge blood sugar fluctuations which effect our glands, and over time throw our hormones out of whack, leaving our bodies unable to protect our teeth from cavities. These foods also hinder the absorption of valuable nutrients due to their extremely high phytate content. Beans and nuts also contain high amounts of phytates and so should be kept to a minimum.
Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate. [source]
2. Keep sugar intake to a minimum
Yes, even “natural sugars” like honey and maple syrup. As with grains, sugar is an endocrine disruptor and hugely effects insulin levels, leading to hormonal imbalances. It will also exacerbate systemic inflammation and cause imbalances in our gut microbiota which has consequences for almost every system in the body.
3. Eat plenty of healthy fats
This should include Fermented Cod Liver oil and high vitamin butter oil (I highly recommend this one). These contain high levels of Vitamins A & D and another vitamin many people are deficient in – Vitamin K2, which is vital for strong bones and teeth. Pastured butter contains high levels of this vitamin (also sometimes referred to as “Activator X”). It was one of the vitamins that was consistently present in every one of the diets of those traditional cultures studied by Dr Price. Without it the body does not have activating “messages” to the hormonal system to build healthy teeth and bones. Basically it is used by our tissues to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as bones and teeth, and prevents it from being deposited in locations where it does not belong (soft tissues and arteries). Other foods rich in Vitamin K2 include pastured cheeses, egg-yolks, liver and natto.
4. Consume bone-broth
This is a super absorbable source of minerals that are essential for healthy bones and teeth. Plus it will make you more beautiful. Shell-fish are great for minerals too. As are organ meats and glands like liver and bone-marrow.
5. Get enough sunshine!
This is important for the production of Vitamin D in the body, which is essential for the health of bones and teeth.
Tooth decay is NOT normal.
Unfortunately, we have replaced nutrient-dense, whole, nourishing foods with convenient, cheap, processed foods like grains which, not only lack vitamins and minerals, but hinder their absorption from other sources. We also live in a fat-phobic age where we are no longer getting enough healthy fat soluble vitamins that are so vital for our health, and instead are using vegetable oils which lead to systemic inflammation and a host of other health issues. These factors lead to our bodies gradually decaying over time – which ultimately is reflected in our teeth and bones.
In short, stop obsessing about the tooth-brushing and flossing, and focus on improving your health from the inside out. Your teeth are a reflection of your body’s overall health.