Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
August 27, 2018
Tooth decay is an epidemic in the civilized world today. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has determined that 92% of adults have had tooth decay! However, the fact is that teeth are not designed to rot.
Take a look at animals in the wild. Rarely do they have tooth decay. In addition, our primal ancestors rarely had tooth decay. When we examine the mouths of some isolated primal societies living today, it is rare to find tooth decay. The fact is that dental decay is predominantly the result of lifestyle factors that plague our civilized world.
Dentistry’s Answer to Tooth Decay
Several years ago, while I was working as a periodontist in a general dental office, I remember several parents who brought their children into the office. These parents asked, “Why do my kids have so much tooth decay?” The disconnect was that these parents were holding a bottle of “Mountain Dew”. For that reason alone, their families were at a high risk for tooth decay primarily because of bad food choices.
To offset the risk and damage of tooth decay, dentistry developed various “barriers” to coat the teeth to prevent and stop decay. Also, chemicals were discovered and created to kill bacteria in the mouth as well as to help remineralize teeth. These products could decrease tooth decay and possibly repair damage. Unfortunately, some of these barriers and chemicals could produce unhealthy effects in the body. While barriers and chemicals may help stop and repair decay, it would be more productive, less expensive, and healthier to prevent this disease naturally.
Fortunately, there are biological reasons for tooth decay that we can control. We just need to know. We need to be proactive. Here are 5 things that you may not know.
5 Things You May Not Know
- A healthy gut supports a healthy mouth: If you increase the diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut, you will increase the healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. More variety of bacteria in the mouth is healthy. Balanced bacteria in the mouth help to prevent tooth decay.
- A healthy immune system can prevent unhealthy changes in the bacteria in the mouth: The body is always fighting off unhealthy bacteria. If it didn’t, we would die as soon as we took a deep breath or got a cut on our finger. A healthy immune system is an important factor to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.
- Saliva carries necessary nutrients: Saliva constantly bathes the teeth. Nutrients in the saliva can neutralize excess acids and can provide calcium and phosphate ions to remineralize the tooth surface 24/7.
- Dental plaque is healthy until it’s not: Plaque provides at least 3 beneficial effects to the tooth surface. The family of bacteria in dental plaque maintains a healthy acid level around the teeth, kills off other pathogenic bacteria that try to invade the space, and allows necessary nutrients to enter the surface of the tooth to repair early decay.
- Sugars feed decay-causing bacteria, and acids demineralize teeth: Sugars will feed unhealthy bacteria to produce acids that decay teeth. Also, drinking soda and eating highly acidic foods can damage the balance of bacteria in dental plaque. Unhealthy changes in dental plaque, which cause excess acids, will weaken the surface of teeth. The end result is tooth decay.
- Provide healthy food choices that don’t damage the gut and that don’t feed bad bacteria in the mouth. I have written about nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods many times in the past. Here is one article.
- Learn the correct way to clean your mouth efficiently. Here is an article I wrote that explains how to do it.
- Consider taking spore-based probiotics. These have been shown to survive stomach acid and improve gut health. Here is research published in 2017 that supports this benefit.
- Schedule dental appointments regularly with a dentist who understands the biological needs of the mouth and practices preventive dentistry.