Dental Perspectives: Nutrition and Oral Health

clean, tongue, oral hygieneAlthough the debate on proper nutrition varies from person to person and we all have our traditional foods we eat, an intensive study of how a diet affects your overall health is vital to your physical and mental development and well-being. In western society, our bodies have proven  the capacity for surviving on a diet weak in bioavailable nutrients and high in fats and acids. Our western diet is not only malnutritious, but inhibits our body from absorbing nutrients. This affects the development and sustenance of your whole body from your bones and internal organs to your skin and teeth.

A Dr. Weston A. Price popularized notions about nutrition’s role in human development. He studied isolated cultures in the early twentieth century that maintained the traditional diets of their ancestors. He found that communities that ate these traditional foods high in healthy fats and minerals had impeccable dental health, emotional stability, and fully developed bone structures. He compared the isolated cultures to other isolated cutlures who had recently started eating a western diet.

What he found was astonishing and dogmatizes the intimate link between nutrition and oral health.

Children who grew up on a western diet as opposed to their traditional diet had underdeveloped jawlines, more tooth decay, and crooked teeth. Our western diet that emphasizes grains and these processed foods contain phytates, which inhibit our body’s absorption of certain minerals. We eat animal meat from animals who have been raised on these same grains and had their growth stimulated by hormones. This leads to a lack of the dense nutrition our ancestors were aware of to reach our full development.

Our dental health is closely related to our nutritional health. In Dr. Price’s study he took pictures of mouths from various cultures. The people who always had the healthiest and straightest teeth were those who followed at traditional diet full animal fats and rich in minerals.

So How Do We Change Our Diet To Have Healthier Teeth?

After lots of research and the Weston A. Price Foundation’s review of the findings and implications of Dr. Price’s research, nutritionists have found three characteristics of our diet that we need in order to optimize oral health.

  • Presence of enough minerals in the diet
  • Presence of enough fat-soluble vitamins in the diet
  • Bioavailability of foods and how well our body is able to absorb nutrients

What might seem counter intuitive to our culture within these guidelines is the emphasis on consuming fatty foods and the lack of emphasis of grains. However, it is all about understanding the true nature of how these foods affect and react with our body in order to understand the “intelligence” our body learned over thousands of years of evolution.

The science and biology behind these three dietary guidelines is complex and too much information for a single blog post, but there is lots of information from other sites about how to implement healthy habits into your diet. For now, we will discuss some simple additions to your diet that can help heal your teeth. In the future we will post blogs that look deeper into these issues and how—along with your regular six-month visit to the dentist ;)—they can help optimize your oral health.

Adding Fat To Your Diet To Increase Nutrition And Oral Health

Here we explore an integral step to getting your oral and physical health optimized. Eating fatty acids are huge for helping our body digest and absorb nutrients. Studies by the Weston A. Price Foundation explains this role of fat in our bodies:

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormonelike substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.

Our society tends to have fat phobia that contradicts the nature of our bodies relationship to fat. Consuming fat doesn’t lead to excess fat. Americans eat a lot of food high in carbohydrates. Both fatty acids and carbohydrates are converted into energy in our bodies. However, carbohydrates are much easier for our body to metabolize into energy that fats are. When we consume lots of carbs, our body uses the easier source energy (carbs) and stores the excess and more difficult-to-access source of energy (fats). Consuming fats often times is not the source of gaining weight. It is the excess of carbohydrates.

To get rid of more myths obesophobia, eating fat and storing fat isn’t necessarily what causes disease or poor body and cell function. Instead, when we eat foods that lead to an excess of toxins and chemicals, or things that our body cannot use for any function, our body will store these excess toxins in our fat. This can lead to disease, but not the fat itself.

Bringing Healthy Fats Into Your Diet

Sources of healthy fats include:

  • organic, grass-fed beef (beef raised on corn and grains carries lots of phytic acid which inhibits mineral and vitamin absorption because our bodies cannot metabolize phylates.
  • organic, free-range pasteurized chicken and eggs
  • wild-caught fish
  • chunk lite (not albacore) tuna in water
  • whole, full fat, organic plain yogurts
  • raw, organic nuts
  • organic butter
  • coconuts and coconut oil
  • avocado

The purpose of this post is to introduce you to the notion that our diet dramatically affects our dental health and that some conventional ideas about nutrition are not necessarily optimal for your dental and overall health. Please check back with us and read on as we further explain sources of good nutrition to improve all aspects of your life, especially your oral health, and call us to set up an appointment to have your teeth evaluated today.