With each passing decade of life, there are associated health conditions that are seemingly unavoidable. One of the major systems of age-related health decline is the structural system, including the teeth. Many people accept these issues as an inevitable symptom of each birthday passed, but many conditions can be prevented or improved holistically. Dental decay and gum health are systemic, meaning their health is dependant on full body wellness – optimal nutrition and micronutrient status, maintaining adequate hydration with clean & mineral rich water, a balanced microbiome, and a proper dental care routine.
Dr. Weston A. Price, an innovative dentist practising in Cleveland, Ohio, found a missing link between modern dental practises and nutrition. His research highlighted that non-industrialized peoples in small, isolated communities had wide, properly-developed palettes and strong, straight teeth, as well as an absence of decay. Considering these communities lacked modern medical care and dentistry, fluoridated water, and conventional toothpaste, this was reason for further investigation. His research determined that the traditional diets of these non-industrialized peoples contributed to their pristine dental health. Their diets were primarily composed of local, seasonal vegetables and smaller amounts of fruit, wild animal meats and organs, wild fish and fish eggs, and raw dairy. Their staples did not typically include grains, beans or legumes, and those that were consumed were specially prepared – either soaked and sprouted, or fermented. These practises neutralize the phytic acid and oxalic acid in these foods, increasing digestibility and nutrient absorption.
The clinical significance of these traditional diets is their abundance in fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) which optimize density and strength of the teeth and bones; and low in phytic acid and oxalic acid, which bind to minerals, preventing their absorption. This poses a specific threat to dental health, as the mineralization of teeth is dependant on optimal micronutrient status. Our saliva naturally contains calcium, phosphorous, iodine, and fluoride (from naturally occurring sources such as ground water or soil), which circulate in the mouth to constantly mineralize the teeth. In the absence of these minerals, our teeth would rapidly decay.
Along with our nutritional status, our dental hygiene routine is essential. Flossing twice a day and using a tongue scraper helps eliminate pathogenic bacteria that can contribute to a dysbiotic microbiome of the mouth. Brushing with a soft bristled toothbrush (medium or stiff bristles can erode enamel) is also vital, but arguably most important is the ingredients in your toothpaste.
Common toxic ingredients in conventional toothpaste include fluoride (neurotoxin), triclosan (carcinogenic antibacterial agent) and propelyne glycol (toxic mineral-oil based surfactant) but natural toothpastes aren’t always better. Problematic ingredients in “natural” toothpastes include sodium laurel sulphate/SLS (carcinogenic foaming agent; topical irritant), and vegetable glycerin (binds sugars and bacteria to the teeth, contributing to sensitivity and decay). Others contain abrasives that wear down the enamel, including charcoal – although charcoal can be a good whitener for occasional use, it should not be used daily. Ideally, a toothpaste should be free of fluoride, SLS, glycerin, and artificial sweeteners. Look for toothpastes that use coconut oil (antimicrobial properties), bentonite clay (detoxifying and light abraisive), xylitol (birch-derived sweetener; inhibits bacterial growth), and colloidal silver (antibacterial trace mineral). Other beneficial ingredients include calcium, iodine, and trace minerals, as these help neutralize the pH of the mouth and can help remineralize teeth over time.
Kayla MacDonald, R.H.N.
Originally published for Edible Island Whole Foods Market in 50+ Living in the Comox Valley Record, November 2018