Tooth decay is an infection of the tooth. Your teeth are the hardest things in the human body and yet tooth decay can turn your tooth to soft squidgy mush.
We are told tooth decay is caused by eating too much sugar that feeds the decay bacteria in your mouth making them produce bacteria that dissolves your tooth enamel and then the insides of your tooth.
Part of how susceptible you are to this process depends on how well the tooth protein scaffolding and matrix developed and was calcified into a hard crystalline structure.
Tooth decay occurs when tooth brushing and flossing is inadequate. Brushing and flossing physically remove the bacteria form your teeth known as plaque. This means we are responsible for controlling the environment in the mouth and preventing tooth decay.
But tooth decay is not this simplistic as there is more to it than brush, floss and don’t eat sugar. There are other factors that contribute to tooth decay.
One aspect is the flow of fluid in your teeth. A healthy tooth is like a closed high pressure system and during experiments in the 1960’s conducted by Dr Ralph Steinman of Loma Linda School of dentistry it was found that the fluid or lymph (like that that flows in your lymphatic system) inside the tooth from the pulp chamber, or the inner part of the tooth that contains your blood supply and nerves, migrated under pressure to the outside of the tooth. So there is a flow of fluid coming in through the tip of the tooth root, and passing inside the tooth to the surface like sweat coming through the skin. This fluid comes out of the tooth where it is attached to the ligament in your mouth that holds it in place in your jawbone.
As long as there is a positive fluid pressure from the inside to the outside bacteria from the mouth cannot enter and live in the microscopic tubes in the tooth.
However, during those experiments it was discovered that when you eat sugar this fluid pump is reversed and begins to act like a suction pump allowing bacteria to enter and drawing them into the tooth.
This mechanism is under the control of a parotid hormone in the salivary glands, which is the gatekeeper for the direction of flow of fluid in the teeth. This is called the dentinal fluid flow theory of decay.
What you eat not only affects your teeth and the fluid flow; it also affects your gut and the bacteria that live in it. The majority of bacteria in our mouth and gut are good bacteria that are designed to work with our body, support the immune system and defend us from bad harmful bacteria and microorganisms like yeasts.
If we feed our bacteria the wrong foods the harmful bad bacteria will overgrow causing inflammation and poor immune response, and damage to the gut wall allowing partially digested food and toxins to escape from the gut and into the body. This is known as leaky gut syndrome.
When you gut is not right, you are not right. For your teeth and gut to be healthy the most important thing is to avoid sugar in all its forms so as not to reverse that fluid pump in your teeth and draw tooth decay causing bacteria into your teeth.
Sugar and processed grains and refined foods disturb the balance of your healthy bacteria, are pro-inflammatory (they cause inflammation) and weaken your immune response. They will also increase your tenancy toward insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome and obesity, which are all factors in diabetes, poor cardiovascular health, increased risk of dementia and cancers.
Now I’m going to give you an overview of what eating for health looks like, this is not about controlling calories or trying to loose weight but about providing optimal nutrition to your body with a diet that is nourishing, satiating and anti-inflammatory. By eating the way nature intended you keep your blood sugars, weight and bacteria in check without the effort of dieting or extreme exercise.
Eat as close to nature as you can, include a wide variety of vegetables especially the leafy greens. Have a rainbow on your plate eat foods that have a range of colours on your plate. Not only do they contain antioxidants and great nutrients they look appetizing and that stimulates our body ready for the digestive process. Your mouth and your teeth are the first step in digestion as they break down the food and introduce digestive enzymes before the food gets swallowed and hits your stomach.
When we eat we need to feed our brain although it is only 2-3 percent of body weight it consumes around 25 percent of our energy. Interestingly our gut is called the second brain as it contains a huge complex of nerve endings that signal our brain more than it signals the gut. This is called the gut-brain connection and we are feeding it directly when we eat. We are also feeding the bacteria and microorganisms that reside in our gut before we feed ourselves.
I’m not going to go into all the different myriads of diet types that are out there but give you an overview of some principles to apply to your food choices.
This simplest way to think about this is to eat foods that are primitive (as nature intended), alkaline, colourful and where you can organic.
These principles will help to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many more illnesses. They will help you maintain a healthy weight to feel vibrant and alive well into old age.
Eating primitive means eating less processed and packaged foods and snacks like potato chips and sweets. It means eating more food that comes straight from the farm to the table. It’s about eating real food not manufactured and manmade. So this includes meats, fish, vegetables and seasonal fruit.
Eating alkaline means keeping a good balance between acidic foods which are animal based foods and alkaline or plant based foods. We are designed to be alkaline with the pH inside our cells at about 7.3-7.5. Consuming alkaline foods reduces inflammation in your blood and your body.
Tooth decay occurs in an acidic environment and if your body and saliva are not kept alkaline enough your teeth will rot. Foods that contain lots of minerals like calcium and magnesium will help alkalise your body and your mouth so don’t skimp on those green leafy veg and nuts and seeds.
Eating colourful means choosing foods that are naturally green, red, yellow, orange and purple for at least 6 servings a day. This provides important minerals, vitamins and antioxidants for your body without you resorting to supplements. They also provide fiber, which is essential for good gut health. You need vitamin A, C and E from your vegetables for healthy teeth and gums.
Eating organic foods means avoiding pesticides and toxins and GMO foods. Research has shown that our bodies do not know how to process or cope with these substances. For example we now have wheat that has been developed for fast growth and to be insect and pest resistant but because of that it now contains mega quantities of gluten which we are not designed to deal with in our guts and hence one of the reasons we are seeing the huge increase in people with gluten intolerance.
The easiest way to change your eating habits is to shop and buy foods only from the perimeter of the supermarket or food stores as this is where the majority of fresh produce is. Avoid those middle aisles where all the processed foods are in packets, boxes and cans.
What else do you need to eat for healthy teeth; you need fat-soluble vitamins A and K2, plus vitamin D and calcium.
Calcium is best obtained from your diet and not in the form of supplements as these cannot replace the lack of calcium in your diet because they actually contain the wrong form of calcium to be utilised and absorbed correctly by the body. In fact there are schools of though that say we are having too much calcium in our food and that this is resulting in illness. And drinking milk is not the source of calcium we think it is because the calcium in it is not readily absorbed into the body, as it is actually insoluble.
The best way to get the calcium your teeth and bones need is to eat lots of green vegetables like kale, broccoli, bok choy and Asian greens. Proteins such as sardines, salmon and almonds are also great sources of calcium and so are figs and oranges when they are in season.
Now the key to optimal nutrition and being able to utilise these foods with their abundance of nutrients is that our digestion needs to be firing on all cylinders.
Digestion begins in the mouth, so what we put in our mouth and the health of our mouth affects how our food is digested. Remember that your immune system relies on you having a healthy gut. 70 percent of your immune system function develops in your gut, and your mouth is the beginning of your gut.
The enzymes in saliva begin the process of digestion by breaking down starches and wetting your food to make it moist. Your teeth chew the food to break it down so there is more surface area for your digestive enzymes in your stomach and intestines to work on. Chewing also releases products that boost our immune system response. When you teeth are damaged, missing or you have a poor misaligned bite it effects how well you can digest your food because you can’t chew properly and your food doesn’t get adequately broken down. The same is true if you wolf your food and don’t chew it enough. When you lose teeth your bite drifts and shifts and because of this the remaining teeth just aren’t as efficient.
Yes we can live without teeth but it comes at a price. You get fewer nutrients that are readily available for your gut to absorb because you can’t chew and break your food down effectively in the mouth.
Chewing also signals your nervous and hormonal systems, instructing the liver to produce bile and your stomach to produce acid both are which are needed to break down and absorb the goodness from your diet.
You can optimise digestion by limiting or excluding drinking fluids while you eat so as to not dilute your stomach acids. You need to adequately chew your food to mix in your saliva and turn the food into a slushy paste that is easily swallowed and more able to be digested. Stomach acids further break down the slushy food and allow it to be processed and absorbed through the small intestine.
Drinking while eating can interfere with the levels and activity of stomach acid and bile. Bile emulsifies the fats in our diet. And just a point of note here eating fats do not make you fat – you need fats to survive and to be able to absorb and transport fat soluble vitamins. Low fat diets can actually contribute to illness.
Drinking fluids while eating slows your digestive processes down, allowing for the build up of toxic waste even if you are having a really healthy diet. It’s recommended to drink water more than 30 minutes before and after you eat to help your digestion.
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition where you intestines become more permeable; the cells that line the intestinal wall aren’t joined together well. This allows larger molecules of undigested food and toxic substances to leak into your blood stream. These trigger your white blood cells to multiple to fight what they perceive to be an infection in your blood. This ramps up and stresses your immune system to the point where it becomes exhausted and is not able to fight other types of infections.
It puts your entire body into a perpetual fight or flight mode, which stresses all your vital organs.
This can be avoided by having sound healthy teeth and gums with a balance of chewing forces so that the foods are chewed well and mixed properly with saliva for optimal use in the body. It is also important to have a good flow of quality saliva to support this and unfortunately due to excess inflammation or if we are on certain types of medication like anti-depressants the saliva flow and quality is compromised. This can be combated with saliva stimulating products to protect the teeth from being more prone to decay and also to support your digestive processes.
One of the main causes of gut inflammation for many people is gluten. Gluten causes your gut cells to release a protein zonulin that breaks apart the cell junctions of the intestinal lining causing inflammation.
Infections, stress, age and a build up of toxins can also cause these tight cell junctions to break apart and cause leaky gut.
Toxins are a big problem and removing them from your system is a good way to rebalance your body. Your body becomes weaker as it encounters molecules it wasn’t designed to handle. These molecules include toxins you eat in your food like steroids, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs.
We are exposed to toxins in the environment that are locked into are body like arsenic, lead, mercury, aldehydes, carbon dioxide and airbourne particles.
Removing toxins from your bloodstream especially heavy metals can be done through a process known as chelation. A chelate is a chemical compound that contains at least one metal ion attached to two nonmetal ones. It’s a natural process that removes the metal toxins from your system. Your body is designed to both produce toxins as byproducts of cell metabolism and also the chelates needed to mop them up. But if there are too many toxins or the innate mechanisms of detoxification are not working well then extra help in the form of chelation is needed.
There are products like zeolites that can be used to help remove and shift mercury for example, as using these can cause an array of challenging systemic symptoms I advise you seek the services of a skilled practitioner to support and direct your detoxification and chelation program.
As I mentioned early we have what is considered to be a second brain in our gut that is created by the massive volume of bacteria that live there and also a vast network of nerve cells. The bacteria are called are human microbiome – a sophisticated and helpful population of bacteria that communicates with our body and vice-versa via the millions of nerves and neurons in our gut which help control muscle movement and the secretion of hormones and enzymes.
The microbiome is also present in the mouth since it is the start point of the gut. This microbiome is so intertwined with our existence and wellbeing it is no wonder it has been stated that our health begins in the gut.
To sustain healthy gut bacteria (and that includes the ones in the mouth) we need to balance the pH of our system. When there is a pH imbalance the microbiome goes out of balance and can lead to an overgrowth of Candida, a yeast that is responsible for bloating and a whole host of symptoms associated with leaky gut.
In the mouth this pH imbalance allows bad bacteria to take over which results in tooth decay and gum disease.
Imbalances occur when we don’t properly chew our food, drink too much fluid with our meals, eat the wrong foods like processed refined grains, gluten, sugar, coffee or alcohol. Antibiotics will also destroy our gut bacteria. The imbalance in pH robs the body of vital nutrients like minerals need for our body to function.
One of the paths to health is to eat to restore and retain the balance of our intestinal bacteria. This process can also be supported by the use of probiotics.
There is a fine balance between what we eat, our health and the prevention of disease and dental decay. By addressing our eating and reducing toxins we can go a long way to living a vital energised life and having less dental decay and gum disease.
It’s simply a choice to shift away from our modern unhealthy processed diet back to one that nature intended.
To prevent tooth decay and gum disease it is essential to have regular dental checks, call us now to book an appointment 07 3720 1811