I’m Miliea, an avid health advocate and entrepreneur focusing on top global brands in the health and wellness industry. I always had a love for science and the human body. I started off studying Pharmacology, followed by research in DNA Mutations at the prestigious Welcome Trust Research Centre in Scotland. Still thirsty to learn more about the human body, I later completed my Medical Degree.
I now live in Joburg with my husband and 2 children. My research on health and nutrition started to grow further after my daughter was diagnosed with Sagittal Craniosynostosis, a condition where the fontanelles fuse early. It thankfully resulted in the most amazing surgery to reconstruct her skull. Despite what I thought was a good diet, it was still not enough to overcome the health hiccups we had with her gut after the surgery, which then led to many dental disasters. As a mother I was at a loss! I realised that as much as I loved medicine and science, we were never taught nutrition and how to look at the root cause to find the right protocol. This spurred me to look deeper.
Whilst researching gut health, I discovered that there was a tangible and proven link between the gut and dental health. This took me on an exploratory journey researching the studies of recognised medical and dental practitioners from across the world. Here’s what I found.
Why do we have Dental Decays?
Dental decay is a major health issue for children and adults alike, in both developed and less-developed countries. This is more so in children; from babies right through to adolescence. Despite the avoidance of sugar, the use of fluoride toothpaste, flossing and regular brushing, the staggering number of cavities, crowns, root canals and extracted teeth confirm that something is amiss. Archaeological findings show clearly that stone age people had remarkable dental health. So why is it that in the 21st century, with all the advancements in modern medicine, cavemen had less dental issues than us?
What it comes down to is that the key to oral health is to have a well-balanced and diverse microbiome, or in plain English, a healthy gut.
Dr Francis Pottinger is known as the Charles Darwin of nutrition. He did a remarkable study on cats back in 1932. He divided healthy cats into 4 groups and assigned diets by group. Group 1 consisted of raw food including milk. Group 2 were given raw meat but milk was boiled. Group 3 received cooked foods only. And Group 4 got boiled milk and sweetened foods (which can be comparable to the standard American diet we see today).
The results were as we would predict, with Group 1 being the healthiest, thriving well into four generations. Group 4 and their offspring suffered poor health, skeletal deformities, tooth loss, and fertility issues. The good news was that he was able to reverse some of these problems when he reverted the cats to the Group 1 diet.
What can we learn from this study? Not only does diet have an impact on overall health, but the health impact is a generational one. How does this tie specifically to dental health? Well, one of the outcomes from this study showed that the Group 4 cats experienced dental decay, narrowed jaws and tooth loss – all due to a lack of nutrition 1.
Our Teeth are a Living Organ
Yes, our teeth are alive! They are a living tissue and have blood circulation entering and exiting each one. This fact alone changes the game, as many people think of teeth as similar to fingernails, i.e. if a tooth is removed, it can’t grow back. Dr Steinman discovered our teeth have a flow of fluid through them called dentinal fluid. When dentinal fluid flows from the inside of the tooth out, teeth are extremely resistant to decay. This flow keeps the bad bugs from taking up residence in our teeth, which inhibits decay. On the other hand, if the dentinal fluid flow reverses, it’s akin to the bad bugs getting a free pass right into the inner parts of our teeth. One of the minerals that determines whether our teeth are resistant or prone to decay is phosphorous, which is found in our blood. Sugar is one of the main causes of lowering blood phosphorous 2.
The Caveman Conundrum
Archaeological findings clearly show that people in the stone-age had remarkable dental health. For a millennia people have eaten a high-fat diet which, interestingly enough, was 10 times the fat content of diets over the last 100 years.
Dr. Weston Price studied many groups in various geographic regions, including the Inuit, Australian Aborigines, the Swiss, and remote tribes in Africa. His findings were the same no matter where he went: indigenous people, with diets high in minerals and fat and/or water-soluble vitamins, were primarily immune to tooth decay.
There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, which are stored as reserves in the liver and fat tissues, whilst water-soluble vitamins such as B and C are expelled if not absorbed.
These vitamins can be found in our ancestral diets, consumed in high quantities that were unrefined and unprocessed, and critical for infant development. Below is a list of the main ancient diet types:
- Pasture-raised meat, not grain fed.
- Organ meats like liver, kidneys, heart – all loaded with fat soluble fats and B vitamins.
- Leftover bones were crunched and munched, that strengthened teeth and jaw muscles.
- Wild caught fish and fish eggs.
- Chicken/duck eggs (pasture-raised) rich in choline.
- Organic soaked nuts and seeds, especially almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.
- Traditional fats, like butter, lard, tallow, olive oil, emu oil, coconut oil to name a few (grass fed and cold pressed).
- Cod liver oil, rich in full spectrum omegas and active forms of both Vitamin A and D in the right natural ratio.
- Full fat raw organic dairy, e.g. Ghee, butter, cream, and the following milks: cow, camel, buffalo and goat.
- Bone Broth and Gelatin full of minerals especially calcium and phosphorus.
- Fermented products like Kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt and cheese.
- Fresh fruits and Green vegetables rich in other trace minerals.
As we move away from our primitive diet, our faces and dental arches change. If not replenished, each generation becomes deplete in fat soluble vitamins and minerals 3 .
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Diets that can cause Tooth Decay
Here are the Top 6 foods that need to be avoided:
- High fructose corn syrup and synthetic sugars.
- Sweet drinks, juices and fizzy drinks.
- Industrialized omega-6 oils (vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc.).
- Processed and fortified flours, cereals, breads, baked goods, etc.
- Processed foods with additives such as MSG.
- GMO foods.
Odontoblasts are the immune cells of the tooth that are found on the surface of the dentine pulp and extends further down to the tubules. They are first in line to detect caries-related pathogens and any external irritation and act as a physical barrier to protect the pulp 4 .
“A Tooth lost for every Child”
A vitamin is defined as a substance that cannot be made in the body and must be obtained from food. Healthy teeth and gums begin before conception and to a large extent are based on the diet of the mother. If this diet is deplete of healthy fats (A, D, E and K) as well as minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus), this will have a negative impact on strong and healthy teeth. So in this case, if a woman’s diet was deficient in any of these nutrients prior to pregnancy, the deficiency would be magnified during pregnancy by the increased needs of the foetus.
Let’s drill down into each of the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals which are now deplete due to modern farming methods and processed foods.
Vitamins involved in Facial Development
We know Vitamin D is important for overall immune health and keeping bones strong. However, our teeth are no exception. Not only does vitamin D lower the rate of Tooth Decay, it also helps to prevent other diseases of the gums such as gingivitis. It is the vitamin that supports the absorption of calcium. Odontoblasts (the immune cells of the teeth) get activated by Vitamin D which lays down the dentine layer. Studies have shown taking at least 800iu of Vitamin D daily can help reduce dental caries.
“The function of vitamin D in tooth development implies that impaired tooth composition is more prevalent in subjects with vitamin D deficiency, but the association may be overlooked since clinical manifestations appear after a significant delay.” 5.
Dr Weston Price identified this as Activator X.
There are 3 types of Vitamin K: K1, K2-MK4 (from organ meats like Liver, Emu Oil, Ghee) and K2-MK7 (from fermented foods). Vitamin K2 works together with vitamin D3 to deposit calcium in the teeth and bones. Furthermore, Vitamin K defines where calcium should and shouldn’t go. Vitamin A and D cause osteoblasts to secrete and make a protein called osteocalcin, but it’s not activated till Vitamin K2 shows up and this binds calcium into bone, which is necessary for bone metabolism and the growth of new dentin for your teeth.
It transports the protein made by Vitamin A and D3. Vitamin K2 is important to maintain, as it also slows down the rate of tooth loss with age. If there’s a deficiency, our teeth can become susceptible and lose the ability to attack against pathogenic bacteria and demineralise the teeth from the inside. It also protects against calcification and inflammation of blood vessels and the accumulation of plaque.
A note on Vitamin K2-MK4; it is a nutrient workhorse. MK4 is the only form of MK not made by bacteria in the gut and can cross the placenta during foetal development. MK7 does not cross the placenta. A Japanese study showed that K2-MK4 plays a critical role in foetal development, especially the brain, skull, facial, dentine formation and mid-face development.
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Vitamin A – The Anti-Infective Vitamin
Vitamin A plays a significant part in regulating the growth of nearly all cells in the human body. It has important roles in embryonic development, foetal organ formation, general immune functions, dental arches and eye development. The following is an excerpt from Dr Price’s book: Nutrition and Degeneration, and describes the role of vitamin A in the development of the dental arches and developing healthy teeth.
“The enamel-forming organ is of epithelial origin, being derived from embryonic gum tissue. Each cell of this organ secretes calcium, phosphate, fluoride, magnesium, and carbonate ions in such a way as to cause them to combine and deposit in the form of tenuous enamel prisms. These prisms form a mosaic, which, in the normal tooth, is of great perfection. When, owing to vitamin A deficiency, the enamel-forming cells are injured, prisms which are less dense than normal, or incomplete as to length, and imperfectly fitted together, form defective enamel. In the milder grades of this type there are pits in the enamel. In more severe grades of injury, the surface of the enamel of the greater part of the whole of the tooth may be rough, the enamel thin and deficient in hardness. This is the hypoplastic tooth.” – Dr Weston Price 6.
The three forms of Vitamin A that can be utilized in the body are retinol, retinal and retinoic acid. The latter is required for stem cell differentiation during pregnancy, i.e. formation of heart, brain and bone cells. Deficiencies during pregnancy can cause a myriad of conditions, from kidney malformation to defects in dental arches.
Seek out foods rich in natural (not synthetic) Vitamin A, such as organ meats like Liver and Raw Cod Liver Oil. There are massive health benefits in the use of raw unprocessed Cod Liver Oil, not only for overall wellness, but for our teeth as well7. Cod Liver Oil has balanced and natural levels of both Vitamin A and D, as well as the whole spectrum of omegas. Cod liver oil has been used as a staple from the time of the Vikings and has persevered across the ages because it simply works. In fact, during the Second World War, the UK Vitamin Welfare Scheme introduced and recommended Cod Liver Oil with orange juice, and it was eventually rationed for the vulnerable groups including children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
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A short note on Vitamin C. It helps to keep the connective tissues strong and also plays an important role in synthesizing collagen in dentine.
Let’s look at the role of some important minerals in dental health.
Enamel is the structure that covers the entire clinical crown of a tooth. Magnesium is one of the main components of enamel, embedded in the hexagonal hydroxyapatite crystals matrix. Magnesium is also known as the master mineral that is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions. It aids in the absorption of calcium. It also assists with activating many of the B vitamins. Magnesium makes teeth harder, helps to build strong enamel and helps prevent the formation of cavities 8.
Phosphorus works with calcium to protect and rebuild these hexagonal hydroxyapatite crystals. Your body contains large amounts of this mineral with most of it found in your teeth. Therefore, replenishing phosphorous is important for the maintenance and repair of the body tissues and teeth. Phosphorous is present in many protein-rich foods, like meats, eggs, nuts, legumes and dairy.
Other foods that provide calcium include fish with soft bones like sardines.
Zinc helps to control plaque, reduce halitosis and inhibit the formation of tartar along the gum line. The best source of zinc is oyster and red meat.
Two other trace minerals that are worth mentioning are Boron and Silica. They significantly aid magnesium and calcium absorption as well as helps rebuilding bone. Foods rich in boron are prunes, red apple, broccoli and raisins. Silica rich foods include watermelon, asparagus, artichokes and herbs that include horsetail, nettle tea and oat straw.
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Oral Health Products to Consider
There are a number of preventative oral products that are now available on the market in addition to flossing, brushing, and minimal fluoride pastes recommended by dentists. Please discuss with your dentist to determine which would be beneficial.
A naturally occurring sugar alcohol from the birchwood plant was first documented in Finland to stop and kill one of the bacteria associated with dental caries, Streptococcus Mutans. The molecular structure of xylitol helps to slow down decay and when the bacteria feeds on this, the sugar does not ferment, hence not producing lactic acid that can damage the enamel. With continuous use, there are fewer plaque and decay-causing bacteria on the tooth surface. Use non-GMO plant birchwood xylitol 9.
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Coenzyme Q10 is a natural occurring coenzyme found in the mitochondria and responsible for energy production in the body. It also functions as an endogenous antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes and lipoproteins from oxidative damage. Studies from Osaka University in Japan have shown that very low levels of antioxidant coenzyme Q10 in the diet can contribute to the development of periodontal disease. Further studies have shown oral administration and application of Q10 can help reduce both inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease 10.
This is a twig or root from the Arak tree (Salvadora Perisica) and is a traditional chewing stick and toothbrush. The miswak has been widely used as a natural method for teeth cleaning by different civilizations for thousands of years, and is renowned for exhibiting benefits such as gum strengthening, preventing tooth decay and relieving toothaches. Thus it comes with a long well-documented history of oral effectiveness.
The Arak tree is considered to be a medicinal plant, and contains salvadorine and trimethylamine, which exhibit anti-bacterial effects on cariogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus Mutans. It has been shown that these active principles support periodontal health, reduces the formation of dental plaque, and inhibits the growth of fungi like Candida albicans 11.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has actually recommended the use of Miswak, deeming it an effective alternative for oral hygiene. Miswak can therefore be used alone or in conjunction with the traditional toothbrush.
A convenient, low cost and easily available oral hygiene alternative. Bargain!
Any decays should be seen to by a dentist so don’t miss your regular check-ups and cleaning appointments. Always discuss your concerns with a prospective dentist that can help you make an informed decision about procedures you might need (or need to avoid).
If you have ongoing dental issues not being resolved with a regular dental protocol, the following may be useful in discussing with your dentist and/or medical doctor. It is important to look at the individual’s root cause and support the body to overcome those challenges.
- Lip, tongue and buccal ties: Rule them out! Aside from breastfeeding issues, the tongue is a rudder to the rest of your body, if tethered it can interfere with speech, posture, airway and facial development. Work with a dentist that is trained to assess them.
- Mouth breathing: The excess air makes the mouth dry, reduces saliva and can make teeth prone to decay. Breastfeeding is a positive way of expanding the size of the palate, moving the jaw further forward and having a larger mouth to hold all the teeth
- Medical history: Be as comprehensive as possible. For example, if you had a parathyroid gland disorder, it could have an impact on your dental health. The parathyroid plays an important role in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, and influences the mineralization of bones and teeth.
- Digestive problems: Rule out conditions that can interfere with absorption like Coeliac disease.
- Heavy metals: They can affect the absorption of many minerals and vitamins in the body. There may be a risk in pregnancy where amalgams can leak and transfer across the placenta. Seek a dentist that practices mercury-free dentistry and follows the SMART protocol for safe mercury removal.
The following are services that are offered in various parts of the dental world that might be worth discussing if you or your child are prone to tooth decay and want to avoid the use of needles and drilling.
- The Hall Technique, developed in Scotland for those viscous decays, is a stainless-steel cap put on molars that suffocates the bacteria and can prevent further damage 12.
- The FDA has approved the use of SDF – Silver Diamine Fluoride. Japan has been using if for decades. Dental practices that offer this has proven to reduce the rate of dental work under theatre by half. It halts the decay almost immediately so it’s helpful for children that are really vulnerable 13.
- The use of Biolase-laser Dentistry.
Finally watch your mouth!
And watch what goes in your mouth. Diet and nutrition is not only intimately linked to our overall health and well being, but also to our oral and dental health. There’s more to dental health than just avoiding sugar and fizzy drinks. We need a diet rich in vitamins and minerals that support and build our teeth. Bad teeth can have a profound impact on people’s lives; mostly in their confidence and of course their pocket. Dental visits to deal with cavities, braces, fillings and cleaning doesn’t come at a small price, and continued neglect of your diet means that these visits may become more frequent over the years.
We have one set of teeth and they have to last us a lifetime!
Wishing you a happy healthy smile,
Disclaimer: Each person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual condition is unique. The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your doctor for matters pertaining to your specific health and diet. The author of this article is not held responsible for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the use or misuse of any information, suggestions or procedures described herein. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.