The Tooth of the Matter
Re-thinking All You’ve Ever Heard about Dental Health
[First of a 2-part series]
When my husband and I first encountered the notion of letting God plan our family size 23 years ago, my biggest hesitation, oddly enough, was worry about not being able to afford braces and dental care for a family with “too many kids.” Eight children later, I realize the tooth concerns were real but the solutions are far different than I would have expected early-on in our family life.
The Whole Tooth
If you’ve seen Alex Haley’s classic TV mini-series Roots, you may recall from one of the early episodes that, it was not only the slave’s physique that was examined, but also their teeth. It was commonly known that the teeth provided a snapshot of the person’s overall state of health.
My holistic dentist (more about her in part 2 of this series) recently told me about a researcher who examined the teeth of people who had died from cancer. Without being told beforehand, he identified what type cancer they had succumbed to just from information he found in their teeth!
One of my heroes is yet another dentist, Dr. Weston A. Price, who, in the 1930’s, studied the teeth of people groups all over the world. In his landmark book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he documented that eating nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods and avoiding processed, denatured foods results in healthy mouths with plenty of room for all 32, cavity-free teeth. Not only that, he noted that such eating patterns were the secret to healthy pregnancies and birthing of strong babies. Nutrient-dense eating kept subjects remarkably free from intellectual and emotional disabilities as well. Dr. Price further demonstrated that this excellent dental and bodily health will degenerate into crowded, diseased teeth and gums, as well as other health problems in just one generation if parents consuming processed white flour, sugar, trans fats, and other de-based foods before conception and, for the mom, during pregnancy and lactation.
I wish I’d known about Weston Price before we started our family. Instead, I was addicted to chocolate chip cookies made with cheap, toxic margarine, white sugar, and white flour. As we kept having babies, I knew my cookie habit was bad for me, but candida kept me addicted. To make matters worse, in my quest for good health, I dabbled in vegetarianism, throwing off my hormones with soy products and omitting the essential animal proteins and fats my babies needed. Consequently, many of our children are prospects for traditional orthodontics because of high, narrow palates and crowded teeth just like those “second generation” subjects Dr. Price studied. But thanks to Dr. Price, I believe there is yet another better way.
Straightening Teeth Gracefully, Not Forcefully
That we haven’t had dental insurance to make braces affordable may be one of our great blessings in disguise. According to the Fall 2009 Weston A. Price Foundation magazine Wise Traditions (available from www.westonaprice.org), correcting malocclusions-crooked teeth and bad bite-benefits more than just looks. It also can reduce problems with insomnia and sleep apnea, difficulty in swallowing, tension headaches, chronic neck and back pain, TMJ, and even cognitive, behavioral, or other neuro-psychiatric symptoms-including those on the autism spectrum, OCD, and Down and Tourette syndromes. But the traditional orthodontic process-extracting four bicuspids and forcing with brackets and headgear the other teeth and facial bones to move into place-is not the best route to achieve pleasing facial proportions and well-aligned teeth.
Functional orthodontics are a better option to alleviate the crowding and jawbone underdevelopment caused by faulty pre-natal, infant, and childhood nutrition. Wise Traditions notes, “This method rarely calls for extractions; instead, the dentist applies oral appliances or splints, to assist Mother Nature and encourage the growth of underdeveloped dental arches. Over time, these functional appliances gently move and expand the upper and lower dental arches, allowing the teeth and bones to grow according to-or at least more closely approximating-the original genetic blueprint of development.”
A few methods for widening the dental arch include Advanced Lightwire Functional (see http://www.drfarid.com/alternative.html for a description), Crozat (http://www.crozatdoc.com/faq.html), and SOMA (http://www.curetoothdecay.com/Cure_Tooth_Decay_img/SOMA.pdf). Although superior, this functional process is not nearly as common as regular orthodontics, so you may need to travel and pay extra for it. If you hope babies are in your future, though, I’d suggest spending your travel time and money seeking out raw milk, grass-fed meats, lacto-fermented vegetables and the like now, so you may not have to find orthodontic care later. If you eat as described in Sally Fallon’s information-packed, Weston A. Price-friendly book Nourishing Traditions before conception of your babies and afterward, you’ll quite possibly have little or no dental caries (cavities) or gum diseases bothering you and yours.
Even if your family is suffering from active decay, there is something you can do about it from home. In Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price describes case after case of using nutrition to reverse serious decay in children-often within three to five months. While the cavities (holes in the teeth) never go away, teeth generate what’s called “secondary dentin,” a hard substance which grows over the cavities so they can heal, keeping teeth alive, healthy, and strong.
Ramiel Nagel, in his book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, describes how teeth work and offers a nutrition protocol much like Dr. Price’s to reverse dental caries and gum disease (see www.CureToothDecay.com). He points out the flawed explanation for tooth decay presented by the American Dental Association and taught by most of today’s dentists. They wrongly attribute tooth decay to bacteria that eat foods left on the teeth, thus producing acid which erodes the physical structure of the teeth. Supposedly, when this bacteria eludes regular home cleaning, then fillings, root canals, extractions, and false teeth follow.
Some legitimate questions arise, however, upon examining this traditional model. If the ADA’s explanation is true, why did the Swiss living in the Alps, isolated from modern foods and clueless about toothbrushes and floss, have no cavities (or crowded teeth)? Dr. Price found people groups eating native diets from the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland to the aborigines of Australia-all with healthy, never-brushed teeth. While brushing may have removed the mossy scum Dr. Price observed on their teeth, there was no tooth decay, a result attributable only to nutrition.
The truth of how nutrition affects dental health lies in the dental structure itself. Tooth dentin consists of miles of tiny tubules. Under healthy, well-nourished conditions, there is a constant flow of microscopic fluids running from the intestinal area through the tooth pulp, out the dentin, into the enamel, and out through the mouth. This flushes the tooth, keeping the internal structures clean and free of contaminants from the mouth. If body chemistry gets out of balance, however, this flow is reversed, pulling bacteria, acids, and other toxic matter from the mouth into the tooth. The pulp becomes inflamed, and if the proper flow pattern is not restored, disease spreads to the enamel. So cavities actually happen from the inside out, not from harmful substances collecting outside and “drilling into” the teeth.
Diet, environmental toxins, and stress upset the balance of the glandular system, so glands do not secrete hormones in amounts that properly regulate bodily processes. Nagel cites research by the late Melvin Page, a dentist who during 30 years of research ran more than 40,000 blood tests on patients to identify the biochemical cause of tooth decay and gum disease. He found that a disturbance in the ratio of calcium to phosphorus, in particular, is responsible.
In Your Body Is Your Best Doctor, Page explains that when the amounts of calcium or phosphorus in the blood “are not in the exact proportion of 2.5 parts calcium to one part phosphorus, minerals are withdrawn from the dentin and bone, resulting in tooth decay. It takes a continued low level of phosphorus, over a period of several months, to deplete the dentin of its mineral structure.” Interestingly, this corresponds to Dr. Price’s observation that people with 100-percent immunity to tooth decay ate foods high in phosphorus.
Extract Your Rotten Diet
The starting point in improving nutrition for dental health is avoiding the bad stuff. Biggies to spurn are sugars of all types (not because of what they leave on the outside of your teeth but because of what they do to body chemistry), even the “healthy” alternatives like xylitol and agave syrup. Other problem items to limit include flour and grain products (unless made from freshly ground, fermented grains), hydrogenated oils, low quality vegetable oils like canola, pasteurized dairy products, excess salt, junk foods, coffee, soft drinks, soy milk and protein powders, foods with nitrates and nitrites, addictive substances, and non-organic foods.
Although blood sugar spikes from fruit are not as severe as from white sugar, Nagel warns against over-consumption of fruit because even it will alter blood sugar levels, changing the calcium and phosphorus ratio and increasing the chance for decay. If blood sugar is changed for prolonged and consistent periods, this will eventually become the body’s new “normal,” leading to glandular imbalance and tooth decay.
If you don’t make the shift to a nutrient-dense diet, you’ll become chums with your dentist, especially as you slip past 40 years old when some 46% of all teeth of people in this age group have been affected by decay. Even if you’re younger-especially pregnant or nursing-it’s important to eat according to this protocol, both so your baby will have good tooth structure and facial development, and so your own bones and teeth will not lose minerals from the hormonal stress of growing a baby.
If you’re just now switching your family from eating the standard American diet (SAD) of processed foods, these new tooth do’s and don’ts may overwhelm you to the point of giving up. But let me point out that retreating to the standard procedure of making an appointment with the dentist for yet another filling may be easier in the short-run, but in the long run, you’re in for lots of avoidable costly and painful procedures and potentially lost teeth. I admit our family does not perfectly adhere to Nagel’s tooth healing protocol, but we do have direction and hope that cavity-free teeth can be ours.
[In the Spring 2010 Beeyoutiful catalog, Part 2 will offer help in choosing a dentist for those times tooth decay gets ahead of you, including information about the dangers of root canals and the need for proper mercury amalgam removal procedures and detoxification.]
Nancy Webster is a freelance writer and homeschool mother of eight. After enduring multiple tooth extractions, two sets of braces, and a dozen fillings through the years, she is a highly motivated researcher on alternative dental practices. Nancy is also the founder and facilitator of the Southern Middle Tennessee chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
(1) Eat Right. From the work of doctors Price and Page, Ramiel Nagel (see accompanying article) compiled a dietary protocol which has a 95% effectiveness rate for helping people prevent, minimize, and even re-mineralize decayed tooth structure. Include as many of these in your diet as possible:
-1/8 to 1/2 t. fermented cod liver oil 2-3x/day with meals (OR 4 T organic liver)
-1/8 to 1/4 t. high vitamin butter oil 2-3x/day with meals (OR 1 to 2 T grass-fed butter per meal)
– 1 to 4 c. raw, grass-fed milk per day with 1 oz. of cream for every 6 oz. of whole milk
– 1 to 2 c. bone broth made from slow cooking bones and organic fish
– 1 to 3 T bone marrow from grass-fed animals
– Fermented vegetables (e.g., sauerkraut) and dairy products (yogurt or kefir) 2x/day
– Seaweed, especially kelp, 1-2x/day
A recommended menu includes raw or lightly cooked fish or grass-fed meats, fish liver or grass-fed liver and other organ meats, raw or lightly cooked oysters or other mollusks, along with lots of fresh, vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables. Coconut, olive, and palm oils along with butter, lard, or tallow should be used. (While Nagel also offers a vegetarian protocol, it does not have the same success rate.)
A good way to move towards the entire tooth healing diet is to make a written plan to learn and master one food preparation method (like lacto-fermentation of vegetables or slow-cooked bone broths) at a time, turning it into a regular part of your routine. Be sure to set dates by which you plan to make each change. You may need to be a little sneaky to get foods like liver into recent SAD eaters. Try grating frozen grass-fed liver (freeze for 14 days before eating to kill possible parasites) and place the raw gratings into capsules using an inexpensive pill maker, available online or likely from your local health food store. Casseroles, smoothies, and soup are wonderful ways to disguise “yucky” foods as well. For older children and unenthusiastic spouses, a few educational discussions may help them join your tooth-healing, health-building team.
(2) Brush Right. Touted as cavity-fighting, the toothpastes we all grew up with contain not only fluoride-which is poisonous-but also glycerin, which requires something like 27 rinses to remove it from the teeth. Otherwise, it can create a barrier that keeps teeth from getting harder and stronger. Even if you are careful not to swallow toothpaste, some will diffuse through your gums directly into your bloodstream. Healthier, fluoride-free alternatives complete with essential oils are nice, but they can be expensive.
For a less costly alternative, brush with a mix of 2 T baking soda (be sure it consists only of pure sodium bicarbonate), 1 t. finely ground sea salt, and 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil. Or you can moisten 2 T baking soda with a bit of hydrogen peroxide. This will also help whiten teeth without toxic chemicals to do the job. Brushing your teeth occasionally with activated charcoal is another natural whitener (beware that after charcoal brushing, you’ll need to re-brush to remove the unsightly black grit from your teeth).