This is the follow-up to What Causes Receding Gums and How to Stop it. In that article, we explored how gum recession can only happen when the underlying bone tissue of the upper and/or lower jaw has diminished through the process of demineralization.
Today, we will explore various strategies for supporting and optimizing jaw bone density. We’ll also discuss how we can actually rebuild some bone tissue that has been demineralized.
First, we feel the need to restate our stance on a common myth about receding gums that’s been circulating around the internet…
To our knowledge, once gum tissue has receded, it will not ‘regrow’ back up to the same ‘height on the tooth’ that it reached originally.
The good news is, we can take action to strengthen our jaw bones. This will help stop any further gum recession and prevent our teeth from becoming loose(r) (which, when left unaddressed, is the #1 reason adults lose teeth).
Gum tissue can only recede once the underlying bone has become diminished. We can remineralize this bone tissue, but only within the current structure of the jaw bone that remains intact. In other words, we can only fill in the gaps between what’s still left of the ‘scaffolding’ of our jaw bone.
With that stated, let’s explore some solutions for how we can support optimal bone density and remineralization.
Questions at the edge of ‘knowing’…
You know that you’re really diving into the research when you find yourself reading a study that starts with, “Gingival inflammation, bacterial infection, alveolar bone destruction, and subsequent tooth loss are characteristic features of periodontal disease, but the precise mechanisms of bone loss are poorly understood.”
It seems that when we push against the limits of our current understanding, that’s where the solutions can really present themselves (if we resist the temptation to think we already know all of the answers).
So, let’s explore what dental science has uncovered so far and see if any solutions present themselves.
1. Supporting the jaw bone by stopping gum disease
This is kind of self-evident, but it’s worth stating here.
In order to have any hope of rebuilding bone tissue in the jaws, we have to make sure that the #1 cause of bone loss in adults (advanced gum disease) isn’t continuing to undermine our oral health.
While we don’t want to take the ‘scorched earth’ approach and eradicate all microbes in the mouth, we think it’s wise to learn how the disease-causing bacteria live and thrive. That way, we can take action to disrupt and disorganize their efforts to destroy our bodies.
A great place to start is with our oral hygiene routine. Learning how to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease, why brushing is so important, how to floss consciously, and what order is best for our oral hygiene habits are all excellent steps towards disrupting and disorganizing the ‘thug bugs’.
2. Can jaw exercise help prevent receding gums?
We think there is substantial merit to an argument that’s been explored in real food and paleo discussions. Does eating a processed food diet (that lacks lots of fiber to chew on) functionally cause us to lose our oral health?
We’re all clear that our diet impacts our level of nutrition, and nutritional deficiencies can definitely contribute to a decline in our oral health. That’s been proven over and over again by the oral health heroes we quote, like Weston Price, Melvin Page, Ralph Steinman, and Edward and May Mellanby, to name a few.
But does the fact that processed foods are soft and easy to chew contribute to a weakening of the jaw bones?
This is a good question, and to answer it, we’ll rely on one of the universal laws that we call, ‘Use it or Lose it’.
The bottom line is, the bone density in our jaws, or anywhere else in the body for that matter, will diminish if we don’t put stress/demand on them.
Each time we give an area of our body (like our jaw) a little workout, it’s as if we’re sending our systems a signal saying, “Hey, we want this bone tissue to stay strong and healthy”.
The body has an innate intelligence for conservation and thriftiness. If it senses that the bones in the jaw aren’t being stressed/challenged, the body will reallocate the minerals from that area into another area that seems to have a greater need for bone-building minerals.
We want to be sure to gently yet persistently challenge our bodies.
Whether we’re talking about working out to maintain muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis or using memory games and crossword puzzles to exercise our cognitive functions, one thing is clear: the body grows stronger when it’s (gently) challenged.
Our favorite ‘use it or lose it’ solution to maintain strong teeth and jaws
Any food that you really have to dig into and chew is a great workout for our jaw bone density. A quality organic jerky is a great ‘to go’ workout that also provides some good nutrition.
Also, we have found that a good sized snip of raw parsley, enough to make a mouthful, has loads of nutrition and enough fiber to encourage us to really chew and get a jaw workout.
While some may point to raw carrots, we find that it’s a superior jaw workout to have a mouthful of some nutritious food that requires that we chew strongly on it for several chews rather than just the ‘crack’ of chomping a raw carrot.
3. Stopping gum recession with nutrition
Nutrition is a major (perhaps even the most important) component of navigating the path to optimal oral health.
Ideally, it’s better for us to get our nutrition from real foods rather than from supplements. After all, a lab can’t make it any better than God / Mother Nature / whatever you believe in did.
It is folly to presume that we can reach optimal health by taking a real food, breaking it down into what we think are the best parts, and taking just those parts.
That said, there is merit in knowing the roles that many nutrients play in supporting our health and helping us to maintain strong bones (and teeth).
Calcium and phosphorus are certainly important macronutrients for maintaining healthy jaw bones.
However, research clearly shows that there are also many other nutritional factors involved, including:
- Vitamin D: absorbs calcium from the digestive tract. Without vitamin D‚ the calcium that you get from foods or supplements can’t be used by your body.
- Vitamin K2: transports the calcium in your body into the bones that need it. For example, some studies have suggested that large amounts of vitamin K2 may increase bone density in people with osteoporosis. For more information on K2, feel free to check out our articles, “An easy step toward stopping tooth decay” and “What’s the best vitamin K2 supplement on the market and why?“. We also invite you to view our K2-related expert interview videos, “Is this the missing nutrient keeping you from living a cavity free life?” and “How to reverse cavities and restore brain and heart health with vitamin K2“.
- Vitamin C: promotes the production of the collagen and osteoblasts responsible for forming new bone material.
- Magnesium: helps transport calcium to the bones and assists in the absorption process.
- Zinc: manages the secretion of a hormone called calcitonin‚ which regulates calcium levels in cells and which is also important for bone development.
- Boron: works like vitamin D‚ because it improves your body’s absorption of calcium and magnesium.
- Strontium: is used to improve your bone density‚ which is critical to overall bone health.
An important baseline to grasp is that in general, we all are nutrient deficient (yes, even if we are eating what we consider to be a really, really good diet).
The earth’s soils have been extremely damaged over the past 75 years thanks to humans treating a biological medium (soil) like it’s only a chemical medium. The resulting use of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and the most recent insult, GMOs, has had a huge negative impact on the level of nutrition that’s available in the foods that we eat.
Unless you raise a very large percentage of your foods on something as idyllic as a farm that’s been biodynamic for 50 years, you’re probably dealing with some level of deficiency.
It’s particularly concerning that modern commercial farming practices have created a reduced trace mineral content in the soil. For example, take another look at the above short list of necessary nutrients–you won’t hear about many farmers feeding their soils with boron (although some farmers are extremely aware of this and are doing great work to restore lost micro minerals back into their soil).
So, we’re all deficient to one extent or another. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into specific examples of which foods to eat to increase your intake of these supportive nutrients, here’s a link to a our article, “What TO Eat to Support Greater Oral Health”. Or, you can check out our free video tutorial series, 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
However, knowing which foods to eat is only half the battle. We must also understand which foods undermine our oral health.
4. Foods to avoid to optimize bone health
As we work to get as much nutrition into our diets as possible, it’s also important to know which foods disrupt or diminish our uptake of the nutrients that are needed for optimizing our bone health.
Now, this subject is big enough to be a book by itself, so we really can’t fully do it justice in this article. However, let’s touch on some good starting points. Also, here’s another article that provides a closer look at which foods to avoid to navigate to optimal oral health.
A commonly demonized ‘anti-nutrient’ is phytic acid, which is found in high concentrations in grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Phytic acid (also called phytate) inhibits the absorption of several minerals, including iron and zinc.
That means that even if you are eating enough specific minerals, your body may not be getting to use all of the nutrition. The old saying, ‘You are what you eat’ isn’t quite accurate. We find it more physiologically accurate to say, ‘You are what you assimilate from what you eat’.
There are plenty of online resources that will detail how to lower the phytic acid content in these foods. Most of the strategies involve:
- Avoiding eating them OR
- Special preparation techniques, like soaking and sprouting, which deactivate the phytic acids in these foods.
Honorable mention must go to sugar (in all forms).
Sugar disrupts the balance of our blood chemistry, which directly undermines our body’s ability to optimally express our genetic ability.
It also suppresses our hunger for real food. So, sugar can cause us to miss the opportunity to nourish our health with foods that actually give us the nutrition that we need in order to thrive.
At this point, I can hear your sugar bugs screaming, “But our brains run on glucose! Don’t we need to eat at least some sugar?”
No. In fact, experts argue that from a metabolic standpoint, the body functions much ‘cleaner’ and more efficiently using fats for energy rather than sugar. Sorry sugar bugs, we don’t need to eat any sugar.
We hope that this information on how to stop receding gums and remineralize your jaw bones helps you along your path to optimal oral health.
Would you like us to dive more deeply into any of these subjects here on our blog? Please comment below to let us know which points you’d like us to explore more in future articles.If you’d like more tips on ‘in-the-mouth’ and ‘whole-body’ strategies that you can use to help support your oral health, feel free to download our FREE e-book, “How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth”. Plus, feel free to download our FREE Guide to Safe Dentistry, which explains what questions to ask to find a dental team who will work with you on your journey to greater oral health.
Helpful, Related Resources:
What Causes Receding Gums and How to Stop it [article]
Periodontal Disease [article]
How to Brush Your Teeth to Reduce Gum Disease [article]
4 Reasons Why Brushing Is So Important [article]
What is Conscious Flossing? [article]
What’s the Best Order to Brush, Floss and Swish? [article]
What Causes Tooth Decay (and how to stop it)? [article]
What TO Eat to Support Greater Oral Health [article]
What Foods Undermine Our Oral Health and Why? [article]
How to Stop and Reverse Gum Disease with Diet and Nutrition [expert interview]
An easy step toward stopping tooth decay [article]
What’s the best vitamin K2 supplement on the market and why? [article]
Is this the missing nutrient keeping you from living a cavity free life? [[expert interview video]]
How to reverse cavities and restore brain and heart health with vitamin K2 [[expert interview video]]
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [[free video tutorial series]]
HealThy Mouth System [product solution]
How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth [free ebook]
Guide to Safe Dentistry [free ebook]
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC108500/– PMC
- Jajoo R, Song L, Rasmussen H, Harris SS, Dawson-Hughes B. Dietary acid-base balance, bone resorption, and calcium excretion. J Am Coll Nutr 2006 Jun;25(3):224-30.
- Mitch WE. Metabolic and clinical consequences of metabolic acidosis. J Nephrol 2006 Mar-Apr; 19 Suppl9:S70-5.
- Lips P. Calcium and vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis – a clinical update. J Intern Med 2006 Jun;259(6):539-52.
- Devirian TA, Volpe SL. The physiological effects of dietary boron. Rev Food Sci Nutr 2003;43(2):219-31.
- Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, Shearer MJ, Gilbody S, Torgerson DJ. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61.
- Malaise O, Bruyere O, Reginster JY. Strontium ranelate normalizes bone mineral density in osteopenic patients. Aging Clin Exp Res 2007 Aug;19(4):330-3.