On a nearly daily basis, I get asked, “What can I include in my diet to prevent cavities?”
It is such a complex and individualized question, but there is one thing I want to talk about today that (in addition to a healthy diet) is critical to cavity prevention. It also impacts the physiology of bone health and the endocrine system!
I’m talking about antioxidants.
As I mentioned in one of my previous articles (check it out here!) teeth have individual metabolisms all their own. That system is called Dentinal Fluid Flow (DFF). By eating (and eliminating) certain things, we can significantly impact the health of our teeth due to DFF.
This line of thinking pays into the paradigm shift occurring in dentistry (more about that here!), and helps explain the process of disease in the body. It also allows us to look to other parts of the body for dental health.
See, the currently accepted theory of decay (Millers Acidogenic Theory) only accounts for the oral environment, not the status of the brain or endocrine system, and the roles they play in dental decay.
But in fact, the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that coordinates your nervous system, and controls body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems) plays a vital role in developmental dental decay that cannot be ignored.
Basically, the hypothalamus-parotid gland axis sends an exocrine signal to the parotid gland (and also the pancreas) and also moderates the Dentinal Fluid Flow of the healthy tooth. The parotid gland has both exocrine (secretes saliva) and endocrine (secretes parotid hormone) function. With normal parotid hormone stimulation, teeth have dentinal fluid flow. But problems quickly occur when this flow is halted or reversed!
That’s where our diet comes into play.
Now, this may sound a little complicated, but stick with me! Your dental health can significantly improve with this information.
It’s been proven that high sugar intake creates reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress on the hypothalamus. It’s also been proven that oxidative stress can come from metals still being used in dentistry today!
Oxidative stress negatively impacts teeth because it can inhibit normal DFF, and actually cause a reversal which renders tooth vulnerable to acid, bacteria (strep mutans, lactobacillus) and biofilms. In addition, ROS can act as a signal. With its signal, insulin is upregulated while parotid hormone is downregulated in presence of ROS, all controlled by the hypothalamus.
According to S.J. Flora et al 2008: “This review summarizes our current understanding of the mechanism by which metalloids or heavy metals (particularly arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury) induce their toxic effects. The unifying factor in determining toxicity and carcinogenicity for all these metals is the generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. The toxic manifestations of these metals are caused primarily due to an imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant homeostasis which is termed as oxidative stress”. (Source)
Now, since sugar is prevalent in our diets (did you know that most kinds of ketchup have high fructose corn syrup added?!), and metals used in dentistry can also cause stress on the hypothalamus, we need equal, but ideally, more antioxidants to balance out the oxidants to stay in a disease-free state. To take it one step further, I would also recommend removing sources of stress and oxidation for optimal health. Eating antioxidants only goes so far if the body has a chronic stress inducer.
At this point, I have to recommend familiarizing yourself with Weston A. Price. He has an incredible book called the Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and his website is an incredible resource for a healthy diet. (Check it out here!)
Price discovered two critical factors involved in host resistance to dental decay. One thing he noted, was that the primitive diet had 6-40x less chance for decay. Primitive diets contained many more minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, copper, iodine and fat-soluble vitamins. Modern food like pasta, refined carbs, and fast food lack these vitamins and minerals.
The second important component of diet is what Price called “Activator X”, which he knew was in grass-fed cattle, but he didn’t know what it was. We now know it is Vitamin K2! Vitamin K2 is shown to regulate insulin and help manage metabolic syndrome, as well as supporting oral health through its antioxidant effect.
And, among its many other benefits, Vitamin K2 has an antioxidant role in oligodendrocytes (your central nervous system) and neurons. (Li et al, 2003)
To summarize, ROS (reactive oxygen species) can interpret or reverse DFF and cause cavities as well as a slew of other health problems. ROS is caused by our modern diets and even medal dental tools. In order to prevent ROS, we need to eat a healthy diet including antioxidants and Vitamin K2.
So, where can you find Antioxidants and Vitamin K2?
- Hard cheese
- Soft cheese
- Egg Yolk
- 100% Grass-fed/finished Butter from cattle grazing on healthy soil (3 ft soil with wheatgrass, alfalfa, etc). Conventional butter has very little K2.
- Chicken liver
- Chicken Breast
- Ground beef
- Organ meats – Unknown concentrations currently, but pancreas and salivary glands will be highest
Of course, simply adding these sources of antioxidants won’t do much if the rest of your diet consists of McFlurries and french fries. Our full diet needs to consist of healthy, whole foods in order to prevent ROS and cavities.
Now I’m curious, do you eat a diet high in antioxidants? Do you have persistent cavities despite doing everything “right”? Tell me what foods you include in your diet that have K2! If you don’t eat any of the above, you may need to add additional supplementation for optimal health.