A healthy mouth begins with nutrients
I owe my life to nutrients. Due to a severe autoimmune disease, I was weak, malnourished, and facing the surgical removal of my colon. Thanks to nutrition, I am now strong and medication-free, with colon intact. My story is extreme, but it is not rare – I am one of thousands who choose nutrition to transform their health. And whether you seek digestive health or dental health, nutrients work.
Today, I’m going to cover nutrition and dental health, which I’ve not yet discussed in much depth. This post is generously sponsored by Redmond Trading Company, the makers of Earthpaste and Real Salt. I love working with this holistically-minded company and have used their products for years.
What is tooth decay?
Like other plagues of the 21st century, including heart disease, autoimmunity, and diabetes, tooth decay results from chronic stress and nutrient deficiencies.
To understand the relationship between nutrition and tooth decay, one must understand how cavities are formed.
How teeth decay and cavities form
- Consider your enamel – the hard, protective coating on your teeth – like tightly packed cardboard boxes. The minerals calcium and phosphorous fill the boxes, making them strong. When the boxes are not filled with these minerals, the enamel weakens and wears away.
- Every time you eat a carbohydrate, it feeds native bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce the byproduct lactic acid which, when left on the tooth, causes demineralization. This is called acid erosion.
- Remineralization occurs when saliva neutralizes the acidic environment. This triggers the teeth to strengthen those cardboard boxes of enamel with minerals.
- Loss of enamel results when demineralization outperforms remineralization. Nutrient deficiencies and excess intake of carbohydrate pave the way for enamel degradation.
- Acidic beverages notoriously demineralize teeth. The most common offenders include soda and lemon water. Rinsing the mouth after drinking something acidic can help. (that, and simply avoid soda).
- Sensitive teeth often results from acid erosion. Enamel demineralization exposes nerve endings in the teeth, creating a sensitivity to cold, hot, acidic and sticky food.
- Cavities result when acid erosion eats through the layer of enamel into the underlying soft tissue.
Is it possible to restore enamel and heal cavities?
Sensitive teeth, tooth decay and even cavities have been healed nutritionally. When enamel is gone, it is gone. Those cardboard boxes have disintegrated and cannot be rebuilt. The remaining boxes, however, can be strengthened to protect the soft tissues of the teeth. The restoration of remaining enamel is often effective enough to reverse cavities.
The Marriage of Dentistry and Nutrition
My health trajectory and life mission has been hugely inspired by Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who identified and articulated the relationship between a traditional diet and oral health. A dentist, Dr. Price traveled the world to discover the secrets of healthy people and found that nutrient-rich diets dictated oral health. Cultures adhering to the traditional, local diets of their ancestors had almost no tooth decay, even though they didn’t practice oral hygiene.
When their ancestors consumed a nutrient-rich diet, and the children themselves consumed nutrient-dense foods from birth, children were physically strong, mentally healthy, had strikingly beautiful bone structure, and indiscernable levels of tooth decay:
When parents strayed from the traditional diets of their tribes and when children grew up consuming refined foods, it led to poor bone structure and tooth decay:
The following nutritional recommendations are inspired by the work of Dr. Price outlined in his landmark book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. After his travels, Dr. Price began treating his dental patients through dietary recommendations before dental work. He stated,
This form of nutritional control of dental caries is so satisfactory that I can recommend it with confidence as adequate to control well over 95 per cent of dental caries.
Below are the nutritional and oral care steps to support remineralization and a healthy mouth.
Step 1: Restore enamel naturally with nutrition
1. Eliminate refined sugar and grains
According to a study in the British Medical Journal, cavities and tooth decay can potentially be reversed with nutrition. Participants in this study who ate a grain free diet supplemented with vitamin D showed a dramatic healing in their cavities. The group of participants who ate a diet high in grains, however, continued to form cavities.
Not only does the starch content of grains feed the acid-producing bacteria, grains house a compound called phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient which blocks the absorption of minerals including calcium. Traditional cultures across the globe inherently knew how to better access the minerals in grains by soaking and fermenting the grains. Fermented grain products such as old-fashioned sourdough can be easier to digest, but I recommend a completely grain free lifestyle to address tooth decay.
I’ve lived a grain free lifestyle for four years to address my autoimmunity. I experience no sense of deprivation with the foods I eat. For grain-free, sugar-free recipe inspiration, check out my Recipes page and Pinterest boards.
2. Emphasize Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Dr. Price found that the health-promoting diets of traditional cultures contained 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K2) than the cultures subsisting on refined foods. Fat-soluble vitamins play a crucial role in remineralization because they help the body absorb minerals.
In the protocol Dr. Price’s implemented to heal tooth decay in children, he fed them one “reinforced meal” six days a week. This meal emphasized the following foods, all extremely high in fat-soluble vitamins:
- Cold-pressed cod liver oil – 1/2 teaspoon per meal
- High-vitamin butter, which came from grass-grazing cows – 1/2 teaspoon, plus additional grassfed butter in the meal
- Raw, grassfed milk – two glasses per meal
To obtain fat-soluble vitamins in your home-cooked meals, enjoy the following sources:
- Grassfed ghee, used as your primary cooking fat. Ghee is lactose-free and virtually casein-free, so it is tolerated by those who may not do well with dairy (but is not suitable for those with true casein allergies).
- Cold-pressed cod liver oil, taken as a supplement. I recommend this brand.
- Grassfed raw milk, if you tolerate dairy products
- Pasture-raised lamb, pork, and beef – particularly the fatty cuts of meat and the organs.
3. Consume Enough Minerals
We need to provide the body with the raw ingredients – Calcium and Phosphorus – for remineralization. Dr. Price’s reinforced meals for addressing tooth decay contained about 1.48 grams of calcium and 1.28 grams of phosphorus. The accepted requirement for these minerals were only .68 grams of calcium and 1.32 grams of phosphorus.
The children in the treatment group enjoyed the following mineral-rich main courses in their reinforced meals:
- Organ meats from pasture-raised animals
- Fish chowder (likely made with mineral-rich fish stock) or
- Meat stews, fortified with bone marrow
Dr. Price’s nutritional program of one fortified meal per day “completely controlled the dental caries of each member of the group.” (Source.)
For more details and case studies on addressing tooth decay with these three nutritional principles, I recommend the book Heal Tooth Decay by Dr. Ramiel Nagel.
4. Support Nutrient Assimilation
We are not what we eat. We are the nutrients our body absorbs. Compromised digestion inhibits the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorous from our food. If we can’t absorb these minerals, our teeth can’t use them for remineralization.
- Consider stomach acid the digestive fire that converts your food into fuel. It’s not surprising that 90% of Americans are likely deficient in this gastric juice, since stress, medications, and nutrient deficiencies all impair stomach acid. Read my discussion: How to heal low stomach acid naturally.
- Impaired fat digestion compromises our ability to assimilate those glorious fat-soluble vitamins. Read my discussion: 8 ways to address fat malabsorption naturally.
5. Stop Snacking
Snacking not only takes a toll on the digestive system (those organs demand a break for rejuvenation), a constant intake of food may impede the remineralization process. Snacking on carbohydrate-rich foods gives those mouth bacteria constant fuel and may prevent saliva from restoring the mouth pH.
Our evolutionary roots indicate that we are designed to eat larger quantities of food, less frequently, and in social mealtime settings. If you find yourself snacking between meals, it likely indicates the following imbalances:
- A daily blood-sugar-rollercoaster due to the consumption of high glycemic foods.
- Inadequate intake of nutrients, particularly healthy fats, at meals.
- Deeply-ingrained lifestyle patterns, such as social snacking in the workplace or boredom snacking in front of the TV.
Step 2: Support enamel restoration with oral care
6. Practice Oil Pulling
If I wanted to entertain my tongue for 15 minutes, I’d much prefer eating or kissing than swishing around a tablespoon of oil. The first time I tried oil pulling, an Ayurvedic technique for improving gum and teeth health, I managed only a few minutes before my gag reflex insisted that I spit out the oil. But nobody ever said holistic health was always convenient, and I was determined to give this healing technique a significant trial period before I discounted it.
Within just a few days, I was able to oil pull for a full 15 minutes. I no longer oil pull regularly, but I do recommend it for those who need to go the extra mile to support healthy teeth. Oil pulling moisturizes the gums and helps remove bacterial build-up. You can use plain coconut oil or sesame oil, but I use this Daily Swish Oil Pulling Blend. For instructions on Oil Pulling, check out Wellness Mama’s tutorial.
7. Avoid Fluoride in Dental Care and Toothpaste
Fluoride is a neurotoxin. It does not belong in your toothpaste, your mouth, or your water supply. The Fluoride Action Network points out the following:
- Contrary to popular belief, countries with fluoridated water do not have lower levels of tooth decay.
- By FDA definition, fluoride is medicine, but it is not FDA approved. “With fluoridation, we are adding to the water a prescription-strength dose of a drug that has never been approved by the FDA,” FAN notes.
- 50 studies have linked fluoride exposure with lower IQ in children.
8. Avoid Glycerine in Oral Care
Many holistic dentists err on the side of avoidance when using glycerine in oral hygiene. Dr. Gerard Judd is most commonly cited by those who recommend avoidance of glycerine. According to Dr. Judd’s albeit controversial statements, this slippery, thick emulsifier can create a coating on teeth that may impede the remineralization process. When this was brought to my awareness, I was please that Earthpaste is free of this controversial ingredient.
Also, watch out for this ingredient in natural breath sprays. I was using an organic breath spray for a while until I realized the third ingredient was glycerine.
9. Use a Tongue Scraper
Unlike oil pulling, I comply diligently with the Ayurvedic practice of tongue scraping. I use this Ayurvedic Tongue Scraper each morning after brushing my teeth. It can help lessen the bacterial load in the mouth by removing debris and bacteria build-up.
10. Choose the Right Toothpaste
I’ve used Earthpaste for the last four years because each ingredient is a safe and active ingredient for dental health.
- Mineral-rich clay provides cleansing qualities to remove build-up and bacteria, while supporting the proper pH of the mouth.
- Unprocessed salt offers gentle abrasion to polish teeth, as well as anti-bacterial properties.
- Tea tree oil fights the bacteria that lead to acid erosion.
- Essential oils add natural flavor without artificial ingredients.
- Xylitol is a natural sweetener recommended by dentists because it may impair bacteria from sticking to the teeth. Earthpaste sources non-GMO xylitol. I don’t use xylitol as a sweetener in my food, but I believe it is an excellent ingredient in oral care. Earthpaste also offers a non-sweetened, xylitol-free option.
Where to get Earthpaste
- Go to the Redmond Trading website store here.
- Use coupon EmpoweredSustenance for 15% off your order.
- Enjoy fast and free shipping over $50
Have you found that dietary changes improved your teeth? Do you have experience healing tooth decay with nutrition?