Eat for: The Health of your Pearly Whites
Katie Noble, BNatMed
2019 SPCNM Graduate Practitioner
Ever wondered why some people seem to come away from dentist visits with a clean bill of dental health while others brush and floss but still need lots of expensive and painful work done?
There is more to our teeth than just the superficial. The mouth is a gateway to our body and the health of our teeth and gums reflect a wider picture and, sadly, in industrialised countries 60-90% of school aged children are affected by tooth decay. Malocclusion or crooked teeth is a modern-day affliction. Fossil records show that dental disease was rare among our ancestors and most of them had straight teeth.
Crooked airways are an indication of compromised airway development. We need to breathe through our noses so the airflow can be slowed down, warmed & humidified in the sinuses while being mixed with nitric oxide to increase oxygen absorption in the lungs. Mouth breathers are delivering dry unfiltered air to the lungs with no nitric oxide which starves the lungs of oxygen. The other downside is that mouth breathing causes the mouth to grow downwards and more forward which can cause the face to sag and chin to recede.
Breathing also impacts our digestion so before you have a meal take a moment. Taking 5 nice long slow breathes through your nose: Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, breathe out for 5 and hold for 5. This signals to your body that everything is calm, and it is ok to relax and enjoy the meal.
There is more to oral care than brushing twice a day… what are the main players in good dental health?
The jaw and its surrounding muscles need to be exercised like the rest of the body. The best way to do this is to consume hard, fibrous foods. Include the following foods in your diet daily:
- Whole raw vegetables
- Whole nuts and seeds
- Meat on the bone
- Chewy dried or cured meats
The body needs Vitamin A for tooth and bone growth and repair, immune health and eyesight. The best sources are:
- Animal foods: liver, beef, egg yolks
- Grass fed dairy products: butter, hard and cream cheese
- Cod liver oil
- Green leafy vegetables, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes – absorption is increased when vegetables have butter added as vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin
Low vitamin D = low calcium absorption and without enough calcium to serve the body’s needs, it gets taken from bones and teeth for muscle contraction. Lower levels of vitamin D are linked to tooth decay and gum disease in adults and is needed for the intestines to absorb calcium from food then carry it through the bloodstream. It also regulates how our cells operate.
The best source of vitamin D is sunshine and it’s free!
While vitamin K1 is used for clotting blood, the role of K2 is quite different. Its job is to help transport calcium out of the circulation and into bones. A lack of K2 is the reason why calcium supplementation does not help with osteoporosis. In a 2011 study, women with osteoporosis were supplemented with calcium and vitamin D to strengthen their bones. But that’s not what happened. Instead of increased bone density and decreased fracture risk, their risk of heart disease increased due to more calcium circulating in their bloodstream instead of entering the bone due to a lack of K2. This circulating calcium can deposit in arteries causing atherosclerosis. Calcified plaque build-up on teeth can be another sign that the body isn’t getting calcium where it needs to go.
Vitamin K2 is found in grass and pasture fed animals who convert K1 from their diet to K2.
- Try adding butter from grass fed cows, eggs from pasture fed chickens and shellfish into your diet
- Gouda and brie
Plant based sources of K2 re from fermentation of bacteria:
- Japanese natto (fermented soy beans)
GOOD MICROBIOME DIVERSITY
Having microbiome diversity is good for your gut but it is also vital for the good health of your teeth. Encourage good microbiome diversity by eating pre and probiotic foods:
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kim chi
- Fibre from whole grains, fruits and vegetables
Calcium is needed to build up and maintain your teeth and bones. Make sure you are providing your body calcium from biologically absorbable forms versus supplementation.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Whole fish (bones in tinned red salmon and sardines)
- Soups made with meat on the bone
- Good quality dairy products made from grass fed beef
FATS AND CHOLESTEROL
Your body needs good forms of dietary fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and other fat-soluble nutrients. Try to incorporate a sensible mix of fats from
- Olive oil
Magnesium’s roles in more than 300 specific chemical reactions in the body make it a vital nutrient for any situation. Vitamins A & D rely on magnesium to function properly and it is also involved in the absorption of calcium as part of the vitamin D story. Eat lots of:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Black beans
Amongst many other roles zinc helps the body process vitamin A. Zinc is found in:
- Beef, lamb, chicken,
- Pumpkin seeds & chickpeas
- Spinach & mushrooms
Eating bone broths and soups made with meat cooked on the bone provides dietary collagen which is crucial for connective tissue formation. The bonus is bone broths also contain magnesium and calcium along with other trace minerals.
AVOID REFINED FOODS
The role of sugar in dental health is hardly a new concept. Simple sugars and refined foods like flour feed the bacteria which are more likely to damage our teeth, so reducing and avoiding them as much as possible is the best option. But when you are thinking about keeping your teeth and gums healthy think beyond what you can see and work on strengthening from within.
Lin, S. (2018). The dental diet: The surprising link between your teeth, real food, and live-changing natural health. Cornwall, Great Britain: Hay House.
M.J. Bolland, A. Grey, A. Avenell, G. D. Gamble, I. R. Reid. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2011; 342 (apr19 1): d2040 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d2040.
Osiecki, H. (2018). The nutrient bible. (9th ed.). Queensland, Australia: Bioconcepts Publishing.