Helping to heal the misunderstandings our culture has around how to navigate the path to greater oral health is so fulfilling for us because this subject has such deep implications to the level of whole body health each of us experiences on a daily basis.
This article is the first of series where we will focus on the role of diet and nutrition on oral health. In this first of the series diving into the role of nutrition and oral health, we are going to introduce 4 main aspects how diet and nutrition impact our oral health on a whole system view.
Other articles in this series include:
Here are the 4 main aspects regarding the role of diet in how to optimize our oral health.
Having sufficient fat soluble vitamins in our diets (vitamins A, D, E, K2)
Having plenty of vitamins B and C in our diets
Having WAY more minerals in our diet
The consumption of too many foods high in phytic acid
Eating too much sugar in all forms
We have grouped these 4 main ideas into two groups. What TO eat and what NOT to eat to create optimal oral health.
In the next article, we will go into detail about how to make sure you are getting sufficient minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in your diet. We’ll cover what foods are highest in fat-soluble vitamins as well as what you can do to maximize the bioavailability of the minerals in the foods you eat.
In the third article in this series, we will discuss what NOT to eat to help navigate to greater oral health. You’ll learn about the research of Drs. Edward and May Mellanby and their research around phytic acid as well as the work of Dr. Ralph Steinman regarding what sugar intake does to our oral health. The information will most likely surprise many of you as it’s very different than what we commonly understand! 🙂
Setting the foundation…
However, in order to really put the role that diet plays to help or undermine our oral health into proper perspective, this first article is going to explore is the work of Dr. Ralph Steinman. Dr. Steinman was a dental researcher in the 1970s who did extensive research to determine the cause of tooth decay. He published his work in his amazing book titled Dentinal Fluid Transport.
Bear with us here as we wade through this information. For those of you who are passionate about the role of diet in creating optimal health or others like me who also like to nerd out on old medical journals, you’re going to love this piece to the puzzle!
Dr. Steinman’s work uncovers some foundational pieces to the puzzle that we need to have in place in order to really grasp the significance of the role that diet and nutrition play in creating optimal oral health.
Dr. Steinman conducted tens of thousands of experiments on lab rats to determine the cause of tooth decay. What he found is extremely different than what we as a culture understands the cause of tooth decay today.
What the heck is dentinal fluid flow? (and how does it impact my oral health?)
Fundamentally, what Dr. Steinman discovered is that our teeth are alive. Contrary to the popular cultural belief that is teeth are like small rocks, the fact is that our teeth have a flow of fluid through them called dentinal fluid flow. The dentin is the layer of tissue in each of our teeth just between the hard outer enamel surface and the soft tooth pulp. Dr. Steinman discovered that this dentinal fluid flow is part of our blood circulation that occurs into and out of each of our teeth.
Dr. Steinman discovered that when the dentinal fluid flow is flowing from inside the tooth out, the teeth are very resistant to decay. However, when the fluid flow isn’t flowing from inside out and in fact reverses and flows from the surface of the tooth to the inner portion of each tooth, decay sets in very quickly.
If you think about what we generally recognize in our culture as the ‘cause’ of tooth decay, being the bad bugs in our mouths, if the dentinal fluid is flowing the healthy way, this flow keeps the bad bugs from being able to decay the teeth, the flow literally washes them out of the teeth. It’s like they have to swim upstream to get into the teeth. If on the other hand, the dentinal fluid flow reverses, then it’s like the bad bugs get free pass on the highway right into our teeth!
He found that dentinal fluid flow is controlled by the parotid gland, which is part of our salivary system and is located in the region behind our lower jaw. Then he discovered that the parotid gland is controlled by the part of our brain called the hypothalamus. We’ll call this system of the relationship between dentinal fluid flow, the parotid gland, and the hypothalamus simply dentinal fluid flow for the sake of simplicity.
Then he said, “I wonder what causes the parotid gland to promote the proper flow of dentinal fluid and what causes the flow to go the wrong way to promote decay?”
Dr. Steinman then went about discovering what factors cause the dentinal fluid to flow the health giving way as well as what causes the dentinal fluid to flow in the way that promotes decay.
The real cause of tooth decay…
What Dr. Steinman found is what causes the dentinal fluid to flow one way or the other was the balance of mineral phosphorus in the blood!
This is crucial so I’m going to repeat this. What determines whether our teeth are resistant to decay or prone to decay is the balance of the mineral phosphorus in our blood!
Dr. Steinman found through extensive experimentation that when he induced a low blood phosphorus level, the whole dentinal fluid system went into self-destruct mode and decay quickly followed. He also proved that when the blood phosphorus was maintained high, dentinal fluid flowed in a healthy way and he found very little and sometimes zero decay.
Now, remember that a little knowledge can be dangerous. So, before we go grab some phosphorus supplements thinking that all we need to do is supplement phosphorus, it’s not that simple, unfortunately. 🙂
While the specific measurement of phosphorus in the blood isn’t really important, those of you who would like to know, the magic number Dr Steinman found was 3.5 mg/dl blood. So, if blood phos is > 3.5, dentinal fluid flows healthy. If it’s < 3.5, fluid flow reverses and promotes decay. Incidentally, if you have any recent blood work done, phosphorus is a common mineral measured and can give you profound insight into the overall health of your body as well as whether your dentinal fluid is flowing the healthy way or not.
This is so huge it bears repeating… Blood phosphorus balance causes the cascade through the body which results in how our dentinal fluid flows which cause our teeth to be resistant to decay or prone to decay. Yes, bad bugs in the mouth are part of the issue of decay (and for that, we use our OraWellness HealThy Mouth Blend). However, bad bugs are only part of the problem and diet plays a foundation role whether we experience resistance to decay or a tendency to easily decay.
With this important foundational bit of information in place, let’s cover the last point for today.
Since this whole issue is around blood phosphorus, let’s begin to look at what factors cause blood phosphorus to raise or lower. For this, we’ll use a wonderful graphic we learned from Dr. Hal Huggins. Dr. Huggins is really the modern blood chemistry dental guru whose work has really contributed greatly to our understanding how blood chemistry impacts the health of the whole system.
What causes low blood phosphorus?
Dr. Huggins explained it to us that phosphorus balance is impacted by several other factors in a teeter-totter fashion. Simply put, if we have phosphorus on one side of the balance, you’ll see we have some heavy hitters on the other side, including calcium, glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol. So, when any of these factors goes up, phosphorus goes down. With this, you can see that it’s not as simple as taking more phosphorus supplements. 🙂
Let’s quickly review the important points here that we will build on in the following articles in this series.
Our teeth are alive and have a fluid flowing through them.
When this fluid flows the health giving way, our teeth easily resist decay
When dentinal fluid flows the wrong way, decay soon follows.
The balance of blood phosphorus determines which way the dentinal fluid flows in our teeth.
In the next article in this series, you’ll learn what foods to eat to promote a healthy blood phosphorus balance in your system. If you’d like to learn more about how diet plays a huge role in supporting or undermining our oral health, here’s a link to check out our free video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth!
Also, if you’re ready to take your oral health to the next level and gain a complete understanding of how to stop tooth decay and reverse cavities, feel free to download our FREE resource guide, “How to Remineralize Your Teeth”.
Please comment below if you find benefit from this information and as always, if you know someone who could benefit from this information, please help us help others navigate to greater oral health and share about this series.
image credit (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/parotid+duct)