Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
November 13, 2022
Are you experiencing tooth decay?
If you eat processed sugars and a standard American diet, your teeth may start to decay or lose their protective coating (the enamel). This can happen to the best of us! But don’t worry. I have a natural solution to help protect your teeth. And the best part is, you probably have this in your pantry right now!
If you’ve been following my blogs for a while, you know I frequently tout the superpowers of raw honey, and this blog is no exception. I’ve discussed the many biological benefits of raw honey. Here are a few of my Blogs, which I have dedicated to honey: HERE, HERE, HERE.
Now hear me out because I know the idea of using a “sugary” substance like honey sounds counter-intuitive. But it works, and I’ll tell you why! We’ll start by looking at how the dental industry has attempted to control tooth decay.
Dentistry & the Prevention of Tooth Decay
There are many ways that dentistry has attempted to control tooth decay.
For example, the dental profession has been …
- Educating patients about the harm of added sugars in the diet.
- Emphasizing efficient oral hygiene techniques.
- Promoting antimicrobial toothpastes, mouthwashes, and gels to kill offending microbes.
- Recommending chemicals and mechanical methods that destroy the dental biofilm known as dental plaque.
However, rarely does the dental profession discuss the important causal relationships of a damaged gut microbiome, an unhealthy gut epithelial barrier, and the consumption of toxic substances in foods – all affecting the health of the mouth.
For me, I have taken a path of discovery to come up with the causes of tooth decay and methods to prevent it.
- First, I looked at the evolution of our species.
- Then, I investigated the relationship of the health of the gut and systemic manifestations of an unhealthy gut.
- Finally, I searched the published research to discover how to prevent tooth decay without collateral damage.
In my conclusion, I have taken the controversial path of making statements that go against conventional protocols. Conventional protocols are promoted by pharmaceutical and supplement companies, by dental manufactures of “gadgets”, and by my dental profession. And I have published numerous blogs about these subjects over the past several years.
But again, this Blog is about a specific natural animal product known as raw, unprocessed honey and its ability to prevent tooth decay. Let’s dig in.
The Process of Tooth Decay
According to the Global Burden of Disease 2015 study, 3.5 billion people worldwide had dental conditions, predominantly untreated dental decay. Overall, the global burden of untreated tooth decay for primary and permanent dentitions has remained relatively unchanged over the past 30 years.
Tooth decay is the demineralization of the enamel and root surfaces of a tooth because of acids around the tooth. These acids may come from specific foods we eat and drink. However, the primary source of demineralization comes from the acids that are produced by specific pathogenic bacteria within a growing unhealthy dental plaque that surrounds the tooth root and the enamel surface.
The oral cavity may harbor over 700 microbial species, including bacteria associated with dental diseases and those that possess health-promoting properties. These commensal bacteria can buffer acidic pH, reduce gingival inflammation, or inhibit the growth of pathogens.
When the acid level around the tooth falls below a pH of 5.5 for an extended period, tooth decay begins. Several potentially pathogenic bacteria in the dental plaque can produce these acids when these specific bacteria overgrow as they feed on simple sugars. Also, when acidic foods are eaten frequently, their acid levels can initiate and hasten the demineralization process.
The sugar-fermenting, decay-producing species Streptococcus mutans is the main causative bacterium of dental decay. However, DNA- and RNA-sequencing studies of decayed areas in the mouth have revealed multiple microorganisms being involved in the decay process. The oral microbiome in a healthy mouth differs from the human microbiome in a mouth exhibiting tooth decay and periodontal disease.
The demineralization process starts with damage to enamel and dentin, but this process can be reversed by the uptake of calcium and phosphate in the diet that is available in the saliva that flows in the mouth 24/7. However, repeated demineralization over a prolonged period leads to the formation of dental decay.
Raw Honey & Tooth Decay
A recent article titled Antibacterial and Antibiofilm Effect of Honey in the Prevention of Dental Caries: A Recent Perspective was published on 9/2/22 in the journal Foods. It reviews the current research about tooth decay and the benefits of raw honey.
Raw honey is a product of honeybees. Raw honey is not filtered or pasteurized. And it certainly is not the honey you can buy in a grocery store in a plastic squeeze bottle that looks like a bear. Raw honey is readily available from local beekeepers.
Honey is a super-saturated solution of sugars (up to 80% of the product’s total composition) enriched with over 200 biologically active components including amino acids, peptides, proteins, enzymes, acids, lactones, minerals, and polyphenols.
The most current research shows that raw honey can decrease the virulence of several specific bacteria which are related to tooth decay as well as periodontal disease. Honey’s antibacterial activity has been considered one of the most important biological properties that makes honey a functional food.
The antibacterial effects of honey are related to its low pH and water activity and a high sugar content (osmolarity), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), gluconic acid, polyphenols, and various peptides. All these factors are present in every type of honey to varying degrees.
It is important to note that Grobler and his associates showed that honey does not cause demineralization in the tooth structures after 30 min in contact with teeth despite its low pH. In fact, raw honey is able to remineralize the enamel surface in vitro, as shown in two studies published in 2021., And a peer-reviewed study has shown that honey has significant promise in the management of dental decay. Specifically, nine clinical studies have shown that honey is effective as an anti-cariogenic agent.
The facts are published. You be the judge. Raw honey helps to prevent tooth decay. You could use it on your toothbrush just as you would use any healthy toothpaste. You could place some raw honey in your mouth, swish it around, and then swallow it to get a coating throughout your mouth as you would with a mouthwash.
Although I think and do research “out-of-the-box”, the published medical papers clearly show that this is not so much “out-of-the-box” thinking. The scientific evidence shows that what would appear to be a “sweet dessert” is much more that a sweetener to satisfy a “sweet tooth”. It is really a preventative and healing medicine.
Let me know your thoughts. If you prefer a toothpaste that is healthy to the oral microbiome and commercially available, I recommend Revitin.
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