The biggest culprit in tooth decay today is sugars found in processed foods, candy, soft drinks, sweetened juices, and others foodstuff. Fructose, lactose, and glucose are all sugars that cause a rapid production of acid and the resulting destruction of teeth enamel, leading to tooth decay. The carbohydrates in sugars cause bacteria to grow rapidly, breaking down the body’s natural ability to resist attack. Research is indicating that even if you brush all of the offending sugars away from your teeth, just the simple act of eating these kinds of foods can increase the likelihood that your teeth will decay.
Cavities are formed when bacteria feed upon food particles that cling to the teeth or become stuck in crevices or grooves on the surface of teeth. In particular, the bacteria that are responsible for cavities love carbohydrates. As they feed, the bacteria secrete acid that compromises the integrity of the enamel which normally helps to protect teeth. The rate of secretion depends upon the type of carbohydrate that the bacteria are feeding upon – in other words, some sugars are worse than others.
To compound the problem, research conducted on lab rats at Loma Linda University has indicated that there is a definite relationship between what kind of food we eat and our ability to maintain good oral health, regardless of how well we brush and floss. In that study Dr. Ralph Steinman injected rats with a glucose solution so that the sugars introduced into the system would avoid contact with the teeth entirely. He found that glucose levels reversed the normal flow of fluid in the dentin tubules, resulting in all of the test animals developing severe tooth decay. Although animal studies may not be entirely applicable to the human situation, the results clearly point to a need to take a closer look at how nutrition can impact oral health.
The Bigger Picture on Cavity Prevention
Good oral health is not just about limiting sugar as a way to avoid cavities. It’s also about learning how key nutrients such as minerals, antioxidants and vitamins can support strong teeth, healthy gums and bone. One supplement that is showing good results at reducing the risk of cavities is vitamin D. Vitamin D induces the production of naturally occurring enzymes called cathelicidin and defensins in the mouth, enzymes that support available antibacterial properties in the saliva. Together these emzymes create a powerful antimicrobial peptide or protein which attacks oral bacteria known to cause cavities and tooth decay.
To take it to the next level, vitamin D taken in combination with a calcium supplement is proving to be a powerful blend of supplements that can prevent cavities. Not only is vitamin D naturally produced by the body in response to sunlight, but it comes with no side effects (unlike fluoride) – particularly when activated naturally though exposures to sunlight and/or as long as proper dosages are followed when using supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include: shiitake and button mushrooms, mackerel and salmon, herring, tuna, catfish and eggs – among others – while green leafy vegetables are a good source for calcium – and calcium we already know it is necessary for bone health.
Restoring Health to Teeth & Gums
It is possible to change the course of tooth decay and increase oral healthfulness by maintaining good oral hygiene, adopting a routine of good nutrition and taking supplements aimed at increasing the health of teeth and gums. With just a little effort, it is also possible to strengthen and restore the teeth to perfect health.
People tend to think that teeth are something other than living organs – which is what they actually are. Having an understanding that teeth are alive gives us a chance to rethink how we treat our teeth, and points to the role nutrition can have on teeth and gums. Teeth are nourished both through the bloodstream as it flows into the root to the tooth’s pulp chamber and from saliva and food as it passes through the mouth. Therefore, it is vitally important to nourish the whole body in a manner that allows the blood to be rich in all elements the teeth require to maintain optimal healthfulness.
A healthy diet and body helps to ensure that the saliva will be high in calcium and phosphate. Through this process the daily deterioration caused by chewing and eating acidic foods, commonly called ‘demineralisation’ will be reduced by constant remineralization via healthy saliva balanced in the proper pH range and naturally filled with the necessary and important minerals. In other words, in addition to healthy supply of minerals provided by the bloodstream to the pulp of the tooth — inside the mouth the quality of saliva is of crucial importance in the prevention of tooth cavities since it is this medium which bathes and carries nutrition to teeth.
Your Healthy Mouth
Recommended for healthy teeth: Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables (for vitamins A and C), filtered water and tea
Not recommended for healthy teeth: sticky foods that lodge between the teeth, snacking between meals, sweet drinks and snacks, acidic drinks
Natural dentistry has long believed that by maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and using vitamin supplements a person can prevent, if not cure, tooth and gum disease. The best way to ensure that your teeth will be healthy for your whole life is to adopt a healthy eating plan, take supplements if you need to, and most importantly continue to practice good oral care and hygiene, which should include having your teeth professionally cleaned and seeing your dentist regularly.