Diet Matters More than Brushing for Strong Teeth
Thousands of years ago, people of the Paleolithic area hunted and foraged for food. Our bodies evolved for the greater part of human history to match these dietary patterns. You may be thinking, “Sure, but didn’t ancient people have terrible teeth?”
In truth, ancient peoples had dramatically better dental health than much of the developed world has today! Dentist Weston A. Price was famous for his discoveries in the 1930s that reflected the truth of ancient diets producing healthy teeth.
Peoples of native tribes he visited had straight, disease-free teeth — and diets very different from the modern fare of the day.
However, after just one generation of being introduced to a starchy, bread-laden, processed diet, children in these cultures sported striking orthodontic problems and a massive increase in cavities.
It wasn’t just the sugar, bread, and processed food that differed between these diets. Price also noted that the native cultures mostly all consumed a nutrient he identified as “Activator X”. Experts often assume this was the first discovery of what would later be known as vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is a nutrient vital to the synergistic movement of calcium throughout the body to strengthen teeth (and bones). Without this process — which also requires vitamins A and D — teeth are far more likely to develop decay.
Another theory as to why modern diets seem to cause an increase in cavities is that the textures people eat are not varied like they once were. A diet rich in leafy greens, animal meats, butters, and seeds offers many textures for mastication (chewing), which is great for cleaning teeth and keeping them free of plaque.
You can’t discuss healthy teeth without discussing spit. Saliva, the extracellular fluid that delivers nutrients to your teeth and serves as your baseline of protection from harmful bacteria, must be in good shape to prevent cavities.
Brushing teeth does very little to help saliva quality. Your diet, on the other hand, is one of only a few major factors that impacts saliva production and quality. Nutrient-dense foods, low in empty calories, processed sugars, acidic ingredients, and artificial sugars, help promote healthy saliva that can protect teeth throughout the day.
Ideally, good oral hygiene and a tooth-friendly diet go hand in hand. Brushing your teeth can fill in some “gaps” created by a less-than-great diet, but brushing can’t undo all the damage of an unhealthy diet.
So, what’s the bottom line? Brush your teeth twice each day but focus most on feeding your body (and teeth) what they need to stay strong.