Cavities in teeth may be assumed to be a natural part of life. After all, they are ridiculously common in Western nations, and even in many developing countries. Very few of us have had no dental work done at all, and most of us will have a crown or a filling at some point in our life. And, even though we would think it weird if everyone had surgery on a major organ throughout their lives, we sort of accept it when it’s our teeth. We have simply reached a point where we see dental surgery as a necessary evil.
However maybe you have wondered why it is that most wild animals do not suffer from cavities or tooth decay. Because it’s true: although humans and many pets suffer from gingivitis, tooth decay, and cavities so severe that we need medical intervention and to have our teeth worked on or removed, most animals actually do not have these problems at all. What is more, even animals that do lose a lot of teeth only lose them:
Humans, on the other hand, are losing our teeth to illness, even when we’re young, and we never regrow them after replacing our milk teeth. Something is wrong, don’t you think so?
In the early 1900s, a simple dentist made a revolutionary discovery about human diet. He wanted to find out why humans and our pets were some of the only animals to suffer tooth decay.
He wondered whether “domestication” was to blame. And so he began investigating people who were living undomesticated, natural, human lives. He travelled the world and saw the dental health of all sorts of people of all sorts of backgrounds. And he discovered exactly what he had expected to discover: that humans, in the wild, had no more tooth decay than any other animal.
All their teeth fit in their mouths, they rarely if ever suffered cavities in tooth, and they did not lose their teeth until well into old age. But he also discovered that as soon as these people left their traditional diet they would suffer a shrunken jaw that caused their teeth to run out of space, as well as weaker teeth which developed cavities and fell our early.
The most surprising part was that no one diet led to healthy teeth. All traditional diets, eaten by the people who had been eating them for centuries, promoted tooth health, and all processed diets promoted cavities.
The two most important factors which Dr. Weston A. Price identified were tradition and nutrition. The nutrient density of these diets was the most important of the two factors. You need to eat the right sort of foods, and enough of them, to get all the vitamins and minerals you need to build your teeth. Dr Weston A. Price found that traditional diets were very rich in fruits and vegetables, and very low in all forms of carbohydrate. People also ate nutrient dense foods which we find unpalatable in the West, like bitter leafy greens.
But tradition also played a powerful role. People consuming traditional diets had been eating the same way for hundreds of thousands of years. Their DNA directly descended from people who ate their same diet. And over time they had adapted to every food in their diet. It didn’t matter where your nutrients came from, so long as you were eating the same food your ancestors ate, you would be absorbing all the nutrients from it. This explained why people eating nontraditional diets didn’t do so well, even when the nontraditional diet was not so processed.
Human teeth are actually more than just bones. For starters, they are several times harder than bone. Secondly, our teeth are obviously exposed, which means they need a tough enamel outer layer to protect them against air, fluids, etc. Then, to hold our teeth in place and move them as the jaw becomes crowded, we have soft roots.
This means three things. Firstly, that our teeth can fall out after serious impact, which is important as if they didn’t our jaws would break and we would bleed out. Secondly that our teeth can move around in our jaw depending on the space they have. And finally, that our teeth can continually be remineralised through the blood supply from the root. Yes: the minerals on our teeth grown back.
Our teeth initially grow inside our heads. We have a set number of tooth buds, which is why most people get two full sets of teeth, but others may be missing one, or grow an extra tooth or two. This is also why if you lose a tooth as an adult you will not get it back. So why would our bodies give us only two sets of teeth if they could be broken, or develop cavities, or wear down, and never recover? The answer is simple but almost flippant: they do recover. Our teeth, thanks to a supply of minerals from our roots.
Throughout our lives our teeth continue to grow and shrink, depending on wear and tear and general care. If we eat too much rough food we wear our teeth down, if we eat too many carb-rich foods we burn them.
If we eat enough minerals and keep our mouths clean our teeth can regrow. No matter how much damage you do, so long as you do not shatter or remove a tooth entirely, it can recover. Hell, even a lost tooth can often be quickly replaced and heal back where it was. Our teeth are fully capable of growing and healing on their own.
So, if all this is the case, then what exactly is harming our teeth? As Weston A. Price discovered, our diet is a big part of it. But what exactly is it about the modern Western diet that is so dreadful for our teeth in particular? Quite simply: carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, in all their forms, are a rare and precious resource in tribal societies.
Very few fruits are naturally sugary, grains are ridiculously hard to harvest in large quantities, and most roots and tubers are either low in carbs or need a lot of processing to prepare them. Which means that our bodies are not equipped to handle them. And one of the places where we see the harm is our teeth.
Sugars have often received the worst rap for harming teeth, but on their own they are pretty harmless. Why is this? Well, sugars are completely water soluble. Which means that they dissolve quickly in our saliva, or into the foods we are eating, and get washed down into our stomach. Hard candy and sugary fizzy drinks, at least if we give our bodies time to rise the mouth out and better its PH levels after eating them, are not particularly harmful. All we need to do is avoid eating sweets and drinking fizzy drinks continually and our bodies can heal.
Starchy carbohydrate clings much more closely to our teeth than simple sugars do, but it feeds the same bacteria. This is where the real tooth decay happens. Our mouths produce amylase, which digests some starch, but not all of it. This can result in a paste a bit like dough, which sticks to our teeth. As the bacteria that feed off it collect over our teeth they will slowly erode our tooth enamel, eventually reaching the bone itself and causing cavities.
A combination of starches, AGEs, and vegetable oils in the most recent modern foods is basically an ideal recipe for cavities. Starches stick to our teeth badly enough on their own, but our mouths will eventually dissolve them and break them free to send them to the stomach. But we have no mechanism for digesting AGEs or unsaturated fats in our mouths.
When we blend starches, AGEs, and vegetable oils, for example in potato chips, we create something which sticks to our teeth and must be brushed away. But this paste also softens our enamel, so brushing can scrape some of it off. The end result is that no matter how good our oral hygiene, if we eat too much of this blend our enamel will weaken.
Our teeth, as we have already discussed, will continually remineralize if we let them, preventing and even reversing decay. But we need to let them. The first step to this is to remove the foods which damage our teeth. A small amount of sugar, especially in its natural forms, does no harm. And a small amount of unprocessed starch does little harm too.
But if you are eating sugar all the time, or eating starch at every meal, you need to cut back. And if you are eating starches, oils, and AGEs combined, then you need to stop. Examples of this are pastries, chips, fries, and doughnuts. These foods will damage your teeth.
The next step is to eat minerals, proteins, and vitamins which will either directly or indirectly build our teeth. Calcium is obviously essential to bone strength, and that includes our teeth. So, we need to eat dairy products, or dairy alternatives, with plenty of calcium. Nuts and seeds and leafy greens are also good sources, as are eggs and tinned fish. Magnesium, phosphor, and zinc all contribute to bone health as well.
Finally, deficiencies in vitamin C can lead to weaker bones due to low collagen production, and deficiencies in vitamin D can lead to poor absorption of calcium. So, make sure to eat some fruit, despite the sugar, and to get some sunshine.
An important part of the second step is reducing our phytic acid intake. Phytic acid binds to minerals like calcium and means we absorb them poorly. Phytic acid is found in grains, which we will mostly be avoiding due to their starch content, and the usual ways they are served. But legumes can also have a high phytic acid content, so make sure to always soak them and eat green legumes instead of ripe ones. If you need a dairy substitute for calcium, choose almond or coconut over soya or oats.
Although cavities tooth are a recent phenomenon in our biological history, cavities and human civilization go way back. Ever since we first started farming we’ve been producing foods that cause cavities.
It turns out that foods which we can store forever and foods which cause cavities have plenty of overlap! Our ancestors weren’t eating chips or doughnuts, but they were eating pastry, flatbreads, and porridge. All of which combine fat, starch, and AGEs to create a cavity-producing paste. The wealthier you were, the more fat and sugar you could afford, the more cavities you’d suffer.
Naturally, this means there are plenty of traditional medicine techniques which will help you prevent, treat, and heal cavities. The first is simple: use mouthwash. Every human society has made use of herbal remedies in water to rinse their mouths to prevent cavities.
And the way they work is solid: by dissolving the oils and AGEs in our mouths, they remove built up starch from our teeth, preventing cavities. Many mouthwashes are salt or alcohol based for that reason, but some natural herbs, like parsley, also help digest plaque and prevent cavities.
Oil pulling is a step further up from mouthwash. Oil pulling involves swilling an oil such as coconut oil around in your mouth. This dissolves plaque, coats wounds in the mouth, and helps wash away bacteria, as well as anything that has built up between the teeth and in hard to reach places.
It is said oil pulling removes toxins from the body, and a little science seems to suggest that by reversing gum damage it is actually preventing the absorption of toxins which cause heart disease, so who knows what else it may be doing?
Many of us think of dental medicine and think of doctors pulling teeth. But the fact of the matter is that dentists’ goal is actually to preserve the whole tooth, in its place, for as long as possible. As a consequence, there are many Western medicinal treatments which will care for your teeth. The first and most obvious of these is the toothbrush.
Brushing your teeth regularly, with a bristle brush or even with a muslin cloth, even without any pastes or formulas, will loosen up debris over and around your teeth, reducing the effect of any starches in the diet. It will also polish enamel, removing minor tartar buildup, and promote healthy gums.
A good toothpaste helps too. There are plenty of powerful remineralizing toothpastes on the market, and even recipes to make your own. Most of the minerals which heal our teeth should absolutely come from our diet. But if we have not had enough minerals for a long time, we can’t reverse damage just by eating them.
We can significantly speed up the process by using minerals in our toothpastes. This works on two levels. Firstly, it puts minerals straight into our mouths, to heal our teeth with. And secondly, it neutralizes the PH of our mouths, helping to kill bacteria and protect our teeth from acid wear.
As our teeth are made of minerals, and we use a lot of other nutrients to help put those minerals into the right places in the right amounts, it’s safe to say that we need to eat these minerals. And if these minerals aren’t very present in the modern Western diet, and even our natural foods are increasingly depleted, supplements may be the best option for many of us.
A supplement routine is also wise if you have some damage, or have been eating a harmful diet for a long time. This way you can make sure you are getting what you need.
Supplementing calcium is essential for healthy teeth. Calcium is one of the most important binding and strengthening agents in our bones. However, many of us eat too little calcium, under 1000mg a day, which is an RDA which might even be too low itself! If we cannot eat dairy and are not able to eat enough dairy substitutes, nuts and seeds, or dark leafy greens to make sure that we get enough calcium, a powerful supplement may be the best solution.
Supplementing vitamin D is equally as important, as neither calcium nor vitamin D can work without each other. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of minerals into bones, so without it no matter how many minerals we eat, our bones and teeth could still be weak.
Ordinarily we would get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. If you are fair skinned and get 30 minutes with the sun on your skin every day you will produce your own vitamin D. However, if it is overcast or if you have darker skin, you may need longer. For this reason, we need to consider supplementing, as it can become very difficult to get enough vitamin D the natural way for most of us.
Supplementing magnesium is something we must all consider, as magnesium deficiencies are some of the most prevalent deficiencies in the world, affecting both developed and developing countries. Magnesium is absolutely crucial for a healthy metabolism, and it helps in proper cell division and formation. Without enough magnesium we risk not being able to remineralize our teeth, or even developing weak roots. Make sure you get enough magnesium by taking a high quality supplement.
Supplementing vitamin C is also highly important if you want strong and healthy teeth. Vitamin C encourages your bones and teeth to absorb and use collagen. Collagen is like the glue which binds together all the minerals and makes the bone strong.
Without it, our bones would be bonded, but very brittle, without any ability to take impacts. As our teeth work through impact, we need collagen even more for them. Make sure to supplement your vitamin C with iron as they help each other be absorbed.
Finally, even if you do need actual dental surgery, for cavities in teeth or for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on natural dental care. If anything, you need it more than ever. Try and follow as much of the advice in this article as possible and apply it to your personal life and needs as much as you can.
Your mouth will probably need more extreme care than someone healthy, or with minor cavities, so take everything, from your diet to your hygiene, even more seriously than before, and make sure to talk to your doctor and dentist about everything you are doing and how it fits into their treatment plan.
If you suffer from cavities in teeth and are looking for the best cavities dentist, contact us today