What Causes Tooth Decay? (AND How Can We Stop it?)

Helping to heal the misunderstandings our culture has around how to navigate the path to greater oral health is so fulfilling for us because this subject has such deep implications to the level of  whole body health each of us experiences on a daily basis.

This article is the first of series where we will focus on the role of diet and nutrition on oral health.  In this first of the series diving into the role of nutrition and oral health, we are going to introduce 4 main aspects how diet and nutrition impact our oral health on a whole system view.

Other articles in this series include:

What TO Eat to Support Greater Oral Health
What Foods Undermine Our Oral Health and Why

Here are the 4 main aspects regarding the role of diet in how to optimize our oral health.

Having sufficient fat soluble vitamins in our diets (vitamins A, D, E, K2)
Having plenty of vitamins B and C in our diets
Having WAY more minerals in our diet
The consumption of too many foods high in phytic acid
Eating too much sugar in all forms

We have grouped these 4 main ideas into two groups.  What TO eat and what NOT to eat to create optimal oral health.

In the next article, we will go into detail about how to make sure you are getting sufficient minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in your diet.  We’ll cover what foods are highest in fat-soluble vitamins as well as what you can do to maximize the bioavailability of the minerals in the foods you eat.

In the third article in this series, we will discuss what NOT to eat to help navigate to greater oral health.   You’ll learn about the research of Drs. Edward and May Mellanby and their research around phytic acid as well as the work of Dr. Ralph Steinman regarding what sugar intake does to our oral health.  The information will most likely surprise many of you as it’s very different than what we commonly understand! 🙂

Setting the foundation…

However, in order to really put the role that diet plays to help or undermine our oral health into proper perspective, this first article is going to explore is the work of Dr. Ralph Steinman.  Dr. Steinman was a dental researcher in the 1970s who did extensive research to determine the cause of tooth decay.  He published his work in his amazing book titled Dentinal Fluid Transport.

Bear with us here as we wade through this information.  For those of you who are passionate about the role of diet in creating optimal health or others like me who also like to nerd out on old medical journals, you’re going to love this piece to the puzzle!

Dr. Steinman’s work uncovers some foundational pieces to the puzzle that we need to have in place in order to really grasp the significance of the role that diet and nutrition play in creating optimal oral health.

Dr. Steinman conducted tens of thousands of experiments on lab rats to determine the cause of tooth decay.  What he found is extremely different than what we as a culture understands the cause of tooth decay today.

What the heck is dentinal fluid flow? (and how does it impact my oral health?)

Fundamentally, what Dr. Steinman discovered is that our teeth are alive.  Contrary to the popular cultural belief that is teeth are like small rocks, the fact is that our teeth have a flow of fluid through them called dentinal fluid flow.  The dentin is the layer of tissue in each of our teeth just between the hard outer enamel surface and the soft tooth pulp.  Dr. Steinman discovered that this dentinal fluid flow is part of our blood circulation that occurs into and out of each of our teeth.

Dr. Steinman discovered that when the dentinal fluid flow is flowing from inside the tooth out, the teeth are very resistant to decay.  However, when the fluid flow isn’t flowing from inside out and in fact reverses and flows from the surface of the tooth to the inner portion of each tooth, decay sets in very quickly.

If you think about what we generally recognize in our culture as the ‘cause’ of tooth decay, being the bad bugs in our mouths, if the dentinal fluid is flowing the healthy way, this flow keeps the bad bugs from being able to decay the teeth, the flow literally washes them out of the teeth.  It’s like they have to swim upstream to get into the teeth.  If on the other hand, the dentinal fluid flow reverses, then it’s like the bad bugs get free pass on the highway right into our teeth!

He found that dentinal fluid flow is controlled by the parotid gland, which is part of our salivary system and is located in the region behind our lower jaw.  Then he discovered that the parotid gland is controlled by the part of our brain called the hypothalamus.  We’ll call this system of the relationship between dentinal fluid flow, the parotid gland, and the hypothalamus simply dentinal fluid flow for the sake of simplicity.

Then he said, “I wonder what causes the parotid gland to promote the proper flow of dentinal fluid and what causes the flow to go the wrong way to promote decay?”

Dr. Steinman then went about discovering what factors cause the dentinal fluid to flow the health giving way as well as what causes the dentinal fluid to flow in the way that promotes decay.

The real cause of tooth decay…

What Dr. Steinman found is what causes the dentinal fluid to flow one way or the other was the balance of mineral phosphorus in the blood!

This is crucial so I’m going to repeat this.  What determines whether our teeth are resistant to decay or prone to decay is the balance of the mineral phosphorus in our blood!

Dr. Steinman found through extensive experimentation that when he induced a low blood phosphorus level, the whole dentinal fluid system went into self-destruct mode and decay quickly followed.  He also proved that when the blood phosphorus was maintained high, dentinal fluid flowed in a healthy way and he found very little and sometimes zero decay.

Now, remember that a little knowledge can be dangerous.  So, before we go grab some phosphorus supplements thinking that all we need to do is supplement phosphorus, it’s not that simple, unfortunately.  🙂

While the specific measurement of phosphorus in the blood isn’t really important, those of you who would like to know, the magic number Dr Steinman found was 3.5 mg/dl blood.  So, if blood phos is > 3.5, dentinal fluid flows healthy.  If it’s < 3.5, fluid flow reverses and promotes decay.  Incidentally, if you have any recent blood work done, phosphorus is a common mineral measured and can give you profound insight into the overall health of your body as well as whether your dentinal fluid is flowing the healthy way or not.

This is so huge it bears repeating…  Blood phosphorus balance causes the cascade through the body which results in how our dentinal fluid flows which cause our teeth to be resistant to decay or prone to decay.  Yes, bad bugs in the mouth are part of the issue of decay (and for that, we use our OraWellness HealThy Mouth Blend).  However, bad bugs are only part of the problem and diet plays a foundation role whether we experience resistance to decay or a tendency to easily decay.

With this important foundational bit of information in place, let’s cover the last point for today.

Since this whole issue is around blood phosphorus, let’s begin to look at what factors cause blood phosphorus to raise or lower. For this, we’ll use a wonderful graphic we learned from Dr. Hal Huggins.  Dr. Huggins is really the modern blood chemistry dental guru whose work has really contributed greatly to our understanding how blood chemistry impacts the health of the whole system.

What causes low blood phosphorus?

Dr. Huggins explained it to us that phosphorus balance is impacted by several other factors in a teeter-totter fashion.  Simply put, if we have phosphorus on one side of the balance, you’ll see we have some heavy hitters on the other side, including calcium, glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol.  So, when any of these factors goes up, phosphorus goes down.  With this, you can see that it’s not as simple as taking more phosphorus supplements. 🙂

Let’s quickly review the important points here that we will build on in the following articles in this series.

Our teeth are alive and have a fluid flowing through them.
When this fluid flows the health giving way, our teeth easily resist decay
When dentinal fluid flows the wrong way, decay soon follows.
The balance of blood phosphorus determines which way the dentinal fluid flows in our teeth.

In the next article in this series, you’ll learn what foods to eat to promote a healthy blood phosphorus balance in your system.  If you’d like to learn more about how diet plays a huge role in supporting or undermining our oral health, here’s a link to check out our free video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth!

Also, if you’re ready to take your oral health to the next level and gain a complete understanding of how to stop tooth decay and reverse cavities, feel free to download our FREE resource guide, “How to Remineralize Your Teeth”.

Please comment below if you find benefit from this information and as always, if you know someone who could benefit from this information, please help us help others navigate to greater oral health and share about this series.

What TO eat to support greater oral health

 

Realfood-1This article is part 2 of a 3 part series exploring the fundamental role that diet and nutrition play in our ability to create optimal oral health.  In the first article in the series, we explored how our diets have a foundational impact on whether our teeth are prone to decay or able to resist decay, and particularly how the system called dentinal fluid transport is primarily responsible for determining whether our teeth are decay resistant or prone to decay.  In this article, we will focus on what foods support proper dentinal fluid flow, therefore those contributing to greater oral health and more importantly why.

If you haven’t read the first article on dentinal fluid flow, we strongly encourage you to read part 1 of the series before jumping into today’s article.  You see, the information from the first article really sets the stage to best understand today’s discussion.

Riding on the shoulders of giants…

Any discussion on the impact of nutrition on oral health must include the landmark work of Dr. Weston A. Price.

Many of you may know this story so for those of you not familiar with the work of Dr. Price, he was a dentist in the 1930s in the US who decided to travel the world to study people living in isolated areas who were still eating their traditional foods.  In other words, they weren’t living on the ‘foods of commerce’ as Dr. Price referred to them.

His hope was to identify what was causing the rampant decline in oral health he was seeing in his dental practice back in the United States.  Dr. Price traveled the globe to remote locations in Africa, the Pacific islands, South America, what is now Alaska, rural Switzerland, Australia, and Ireland studying the diets of the isolated villages he visited and their relative level of oral health.

What he found across the board was that people living their traditional ways had a very low rate of tooth decay and were generally very healthy.  In fact, in one village he studied where the residents allowed Dr. Price to study the skulls of the dead from that village, Dr. Price found one cavity in 100 skulls!  Not 1 cavity in 100 teeth, 100 skulls!  That’s one cavity in 3200 teeth!

Despite very different diets across the world, Dr. Price did find common threads through the traditional foods the various cultures ate around the world.  One of the common threads he found was that the traditional peoples consumed 4 times the minerals as Americans in the 1930s and 10 times the fat soluble vitamins!  Mind you, this was well before the low-fat propaganda blitz hit the US.

It’s all about bio-available minerals and fat-soluble vitamins…

Given this information, it does make sense that we dearly require more minerals in our diets and WAY more healthy fats than most people in our culture consume regularly.

We are very grateful for the rise of the ‘real food’ movement,  the concept of nutrient dense cooking, and the awesome work that so many great researchers, authors, and bloggers are doing to help spread the word about the benefits of eating real foods such as our ancestors did.

Here’s the rub about minerals…

There are several challenges we face when it comes to getting sufficient minerals in our diets.  As you’ll see in the next article in the series, certain foods inhibit our ability to uptake minerals.  These foods act as ‘anti-nutrients’ and bind certain minerals in the foods we eat thus making them unavailable for our bodies to utilize.  More on this in the next article…

Another challenge we face when pondering how to obtain sufficient minerals in our diets is how our food has been grown for the past 80 years.  When our global culture took the ‘better living through chemistry’ pill, industrialized farming began dumping lots and lots of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) into the soil because soil scientists inaccurately determined that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were the only elements necessary to grow healthy plants and agricultural products.  The following decades of high demand farming with NPK have resulted in a soil that is very depleted of all the other minerals necessary to live a vital healthy life.  Many of these minerals are required to ‘turn on’ specific enzymes in the body.  Trace minerals are the ‘spark’ that provides the necessary parts for the body to produce all the enzymes our bodies make every day.  If, however, we are depleted of chromium, for example, our bodies simply will not be able to produce the enzymes where chromium is required.

A great book on this subject documents the travels of another pioneer like Dr. Weston A Price.  Maynard Murray studied the role of trace minerals and their function in providing the body all the ‘parts’ necessary to live a vital life.  Among other things, Dr. Murray was successful in reversing cancer in many species by providing the minerals necessary in their diet.  His work is beautifully documented in the book from Chuck Walters, editor of Acres USA (another awesome read!), and the title is Fertility from the Ocean Deep.

The third challenge with getting sufficient minerals in our diets is due to not having a healthy gut colony.  As we understand it, the ‘good bugs’ in our intestines actually predigest the foods we eat thus making the nutrition more available for us to uptake.  Without healthy gut colonization, eating the most nutritious diet would still fall short.  We think the expression ‘we are what we eat’ isn’t quite accurate.  We find that ‘we are what we assimilate from what we eat’ is a more accurate statement.  In other words, if we eat lots of quality foods but have less than optimal digestion and absorption, then we’re still going to fall short of our nutritional needs.

OraWellness diet rule #1:  Eat more quality fats 🙂

Let’s move on to how all of us need more fat soluble vitamins and activators.  The vitamins we are referring to here are vitamins A, D, E and K, particularly K2.  While giving this subject the attention it deserves is beyond the scope of this article, we’d like to share one example relating to oral health of how these vitamins are crucial and work together synergistically.

Vitamins A and D together stimulate cells in our bones to produce osteocalcin.  Osteocalcin is used by the body to build new bone tissue or reinforce bone tissue that needs support (including teeth that are demineralizing).

However, osteocalcin needs to be activated (a term that Dr. Price recognized and identified as activator X in his research for lack of a better term).  Vitamin K2 is what activates osteocalcin and makes it ready to plug into existing bone tissue.

In other words, without sufficient vitamin K2 in the diet, you can supplement all the vitamin A and D you want and it won’t have nearly the same impact as if you have the synergistic benefit of A, D and K2 together.  (Incidentally, if you would like to read a very thorough article on this subject, here’s a link to a great article by Chris Masterjohn over at the Weston A Price Foundation site.)

So, the real question is where can we get these vitamins together in a highly available form, which from our perspective is in their whole food form?  Well, it turns out that Dr. Price again identified that the combination of cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil were a fabulous combination to supplement to provide our bodies with lots of these fat-soluble vitamins to bring about positive change in our oral health.

Before we get into what other foods are high in fat-soluble vitamins and available minerals, let’s reflect on one other comparison that Dr. Price found.  He compared people living in their traditional ways with other people from the same villages who had moved into the towns nearby that ate processed, convenient, foods of commerce.

He found an average % of decay in the people who ate their traditional foods was right around 2% of all teeth he studied.  In contrast, the % decay in the same peoples living on modern diets averaged over 30% with a high of over 70% among Australian aborigines living on modern diets!

There’s no way around it, diet plays an integral, foundational part to any path to optimal oral health.  If you stop and think about it, this really makes sense.  Unless our bodies have the building blocks, the parts necessary to thrive, they will do the best they can with substandard ingredients, which will result in substandard health.

Unless our bodies have the building blocks, the parts necessary to thrive, they will do the best they can with substandard ingredients, which will result in substandard health.

So, what foods provide us lots of nutrition in the form of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins?  Well, many of them happen to be out of favor of what our modern society says is ‘healthy’ and ‘delicious’ .  Foods like eggs from animals raised on pasture, cream and butter from animals raised on pasture, organ meats from animals raised on pasture, even some cheeses are high in some of these fat-soluble activators.

Do you hear the common thread here?  The quality of the food products we eat is of paramount importance when it comes to the nutrition that these foods contain.  Animals must live on pasture and have access to lots of sunlight in order for them to get the nutrition they need which will be passed to us in the products we eat.

For example, we mentioned the importance of vitamin K2 to activate and make available the vitamin A and D for bone production.  Well, animals create K2 from vitamin K1 that they get from eating green grass.  In fact, the amount of K2 in animal products drops significantly when the animal is off green grass.  The lesson here is to source the quality of animal products well.  Organic is always wise too.  You see, healthy animals living on their natural foods accumulate the minerals from the food they eat and concentrate them into very available forms when we consume their products.

I understand how it would be great if we could live healthy, vital lives without having to consume animal products, but from our studies of history and nutrition, we are gratefully and hopelessly dependent on animals to optimize our nutritional needs.

Let’s quickly offer a list of foods that we consider to be some of the highest nutritional components of a healthy diet.

One important source is quality products from healthy animals living in their natural environments.  This includes eggs from pastured chickens or ducks, fish eggs, the organ meats of cattle and other grazing animals, chickens and fish as well as dairy products from pastured cattle, goats or other milk producing livestock.

Another big source of lots of healthy fats and proteins along with a bunch of very available minerals is homemade bone broths or stocks made from bones of healthy animals living on pasture.  We consider bone broths to be a foundational component of a healthy diet.  Every traditional culture has their version of grandma’s chicken soup that they rely on to provide their families lots of nourishment in a very easy to digest form.

Also, any discussion of optimizing diet for greater oral health wouldn’t be complete without including the vital role of naturally fermented foods to increase the beneficial bacteria in our guts.  Like we mentioned above, it’s the good bugs in our digestive systems which make the food we eat available to absorb!  We consider foods like unpasteurized saurkraut as well as homemade kefir and yogurt if you do dairy, fundamental parts to a healthy diet as these foods nourish and support a healthy bacterial colonization in our bellies.

The special place butter has in our home…

If you lean toward a vegetarian diet, then look at the traditional Indian diet and how they eat A LOT of dairy products in the form of yogurt like cultured milk products and clarified butter, or what is called ghee.  We really consider butter to have a very foundational place in any healthy diet.  However, we really have to get the very best butter possible in order to be really helping to optimize our oral health.  An easy way to determine the value/quality of the butter your family eats is to simply look at the color of the butter.  The paler the color, the fewer vitamins in the butter.  We may have to write a whole separate article just on butter.  It really does deserve the individualized attention. 🙂

As an interesting side note, consuming animal products like fatty cuts of beef and organ meats is the very best way to stabilize and optimize blood phosphorus which, as you know from the first article in this series, is the game when it comes to keeping our teeth healthy.

So, to wrap up today’s discussion, we must focus on eating the highest quality foods we can to maximize the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in our diets if we want to reach optimal oral health like what our ancestors experienced.  Here’s a link to a list of resources of books and other websites that share helpful information regarding eating to maximize our genetic potential.

In the next article, we’ll explore which foods undermine our ability to create optimal oral health and why.

Please comment below if you find benefit from this information and as always, if you know someone who could benefit from this information, please share it.

To gain a complete understanding how to stop tooth decay and reverse cavities, feel free to download our FREE resource guide, “How to Remineralize Your Teeth”.

Thank you and Aloha!

source: https://www.orawellness.com/why-do-teeth-decay/

image credit (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/parotid+duct)

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