When we think of dental health, we think of the advice of current dentists: “brush and floss after every meal”, “use fluoride”, and “see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and examinations”. Yet hundreds of years ago, tooth brushes, floss, topical and oral fluoride, and dentists didn’t exist, yet dental health appeared to be quite superior to what it is today. That is not to say we don’t need dentists and the other paraphernalia, we do, but it is because of our nutrition that we need them today.
One of the earliest nutritionists was a dentist, Dr. Weston A. Price. During his practice he observed some interesting relationships between his patients’ general health and the health of their teeth. It seemed nutrition played a role in it, but how? To answer his questions, he quit his dental practice in the 1930’s and did an interesting study around the world in undeveloped (or “primitive”) countries to seek those answers. He published an important book from his studies: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
What he found was that nutrition in fact, had a profound effect on dental health. He found that people in those primitive areas, when they were unaffected by modernized foods/stuck to their indigenous diets, they had beautiful teeth. Their jaws were wide, round, and well suited to a mouthful of teeth (unlike ours today that are narrow, necessitating the removal of “wisdom teeth”). The teeth were well spaced, perfectly straight, even, bright and not a single cavity! The more the individual villages introduced modern foods (specifically sugar and white flour), the more crooked, crowded, twisted, uneven and full of dental caries they were, commensurate with the amount of these processed foods they ate.
Their traditional diets were rich in essential food factors, not only necessary for good dental health, but was focused on healthy, strong pregnancies and babies. When their diets were analyzed, Dr. Price found their diets were at least four times as rich in calcium and other minerals, and at least 10 times the essential fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E & K) found in the diets common in the 1930’s. Today, our diets are significantly more depleted than they were then! Their diets were rich in butter, fish (including shellfish), eggs and organ meats. These were “sacred” foods required for pre-conception, pregnancy and lactating mothers. The natural consequence, was also a healthy mouth.
The summary of his studies, relative to healthy teeth, was that our diets need to contain ample nutrient-dense, whole foods, preferably before pregnancy. After birth, childhood is critical for laying the foundation for future strong, healthy teeth and gums. Kids (and adults) need to get calcium and other nutrients from green leafy vegetables, home-made chicken stock, organ meats as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, properly grown and prepared to retain their nutritional value.
Avoiding processed foods, especially sugar, white flour and other depleted, junk foods is essential to building (or re-building) strong teeth. That includes not only teeth health, but gum health as well.
Our traditional diets, in times past, tended to maximize nutrition, whereas, modern diets, unfortunately, tend to minimize nutrients. We can make a difference in our dental health, starting today, with good nutritional habits.
© 2012 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.