Saturday, October 13, 2018

Nutrition and Tooth Decay


Did you know tooth decay is a (relatively) recent problem for mankind?  Until the advent of farming approximately 12,000 years ago, cavities were rare in our ancestors. With the addition of grains to the diet, the bacteria in our mouths began to change. The bacteria, once benign, started evolving.  Thus, tooth decay was “born.”  As more food processing developed people started eating flour, breads, sugar, and processed foods. This encouraged the oral bacteria to become even more aggressive and destructive. 
A researcher from the turn of the 20th century, a dentist named Weston Price, was a man well ahead of his time.  He and his wife traveled to many points on the globe, exploring the mouths and diets of people living in isolated tribes or communities.  These people had not had exposure to the processed foods, flour or sugars that were the main diet staples of the then current “modern” societies.  Dr. Price photographed and documented the many big, beautiful, healthy smiles of these indigenous people. 

These peoples had no exposure to sugar, flour, and processed foods, and Dr. Price found they had little to no decay.  In addition, they had 32 lovely, straight, healthy teeth.  Meanwhile, their neighbors in nearby communities with the “modern” processed food diet had cavities, crooked teeth, poor oral health and even narrow jaws.  Dr. Price would return years later to again evaluate oral conditions in these same groups as they started eating the modern, processed foods.  He found that once the closed societies started eating these foods, they too, started experiencing decay, poor oral health and tooth crowding in their children. Interestingly, if the groups then returned to their primal diet, the oral health of successive generations also improved. Dr. Price’s extensive work can be viewed in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  
Dr. Price studied their diets and sleuthed out what vitamins and nutrients their diets contained.  Then he studied the corresponding diets of the “modern” societies.  While all the diets varied depending on location and available food, the common factor was that they ate whole foods with no processing. The decay-free individuals ate nuts, organ meats, cheeses and butter from grass feed cows, shell fish, and fish eggs.  As he analyzed their diet, he found it provided four times the calcium and other minerals, and ten times the fat-soluble vitamins than “modern” diets. Even those in the tundra ate a healthy diet because whale blubber contained the nutrients they needed. Dr. Price believed that a healthy diet to prevent decay and allow for proper jaw development contained vitamins A, D, and “mystery vitamin” which became later known as Vitamin K2. 
If you are interested in Weston Price's work then you may want to visit the Weston Price Foundation online. They have a lot of valuable information that can help you explore how to choose a healthy diet. And of course, a healthy diet provides nutrition for every part of your body.  I find it interesting how much it is related to dental health and how we should all take this into account in protecting our oral health and in protecting the dental health of our children. 

Thank you to Barbara Tritz RDH, BS
Specialist in Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

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