This article is part 2 of a 3-part series exploring the fundamental role that diet and nutrition play in our ability to create optimal oral health.
In the first article in the series, “What Causes Tooth Decay? (AND How Can We Stop it?)“, we explored how our diets have a big impact on our dentinal fluid transport, a system which is largely responsible for determining whether our teeth are susceptible or resistant to decay.
In this article, we will discuss which foods support greater oral health (and how they offer that support).
If you haven’t checked out part 1 of this series on dentinal fluid flow, we strongly encourage you to circle back and read it before jumping into today’s article. The information from that first article really sets the stage for today’s discussion.
Riding on the shoulders of giants…
Any discussion about nutrition’s impact on oral health must include the landmark work of Dr. Weston A. Price.
For those of you who are not yet familiar with Dr. Price and his work, he was a 1930s dentist who decided to travel the world to study people who were living in isolated areas and eating traditional foods from their region.
In other words, the people he studied weren’t yet living on what Dr. Price called, ‘foods of commerce’ (think processed and fast food).
His hope was to identify what was causing the rampant decline in oral health that he was seeing in his dental practice back in the United States.
Dr. Price’s findings…
Dr. Price traveled the globe to study the diet and general oral health of the people in isolated villages in Africa, the Pacific islands, South America, what is now Alaska, rural Switzerland, Australia, and Ireland.
What he found across the board was that people living traditional lifestyles had a very low rate of tooth decay and were generally very healthy. In fact, in one village where the residents allowed Dr. Price to study the skulls of their dead, Dr. P found only one cavity in 100 skulls!
Not one cavity in 100 teeth–we’re talking 100 skulls! That’s one cavity in 3200 teeth!
Despite the very different foods that he observed in traditional cultures around the world, Dr. Price did find common dietary themes among these remote peoples.
One of the common threads he found was that the traditional peoples consumed 4 times more minerals and 10 times more fat-soluble vitamins than Americans did in the 1930s!
Mind you, the deficit is likely even greater now, as this was well before the low-fat propaganda blitz hit the USA.
It’s all about bio-available minerals and fat-soluble vitamins…
Given this information, it does make sense that our modern diets need to be updated to include more minerals and WAY more healthy fats than most people in our culture regularly consume.
We are very grateful for the rise of the ‘real food’ movement, the concept of nutrient-dense cooking, and the awesome work that so many great researchers, authors, and bloggers are doing to help spread the word about the benefits of eating the types of nourishing foods that our ancestors did.
Here’s the rub about minerals…
There are several challenges we face when it comes to getting sufficient amounts of minerals from our diets.
As you’ll see in the next article in the series, “What foods undermine our oral health and why,” certain foods can act as ‘anti-nutrients’, preventing the minerals in the foods we eat from becoming available for our bodies to utilize. More on this in that next article…
Another challenge we face when pondering how to obtain sufficient minerals in our diets is the way in which our food has been grown for the past 80 years.
When our global culture took the ‘better living through chemistry’ pill, industrialized farming began dumping lots and lots of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) into the soil because soil scientists inaccurately determined that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were the only elements necessary to grow healthy plants and agricultural products.
The following decades of high-demand, factory-style farming with NPK have resulted in a soil that is deficient in all of the other minerals that are necessary for living a vital, healthy life.
Many of these missing minerals are required for ‘turning on’ specific enzymes in the body. Trace minerals provide the necessary parts for the body to produce all of the enzymes that it makes each day.
However, if we are deficient in chromium, for example, our bodies simply will not be able to produce the enzymes that require chromium.
There’s a great book on this subject that documents the travels of another pioneer like Dr. Weston A Price.
Maynard Murray studied the role of trace minerals in providing the body with all of the ‘parts’ that are necessary to live a vital life. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Murray successfully reversed cancer in many species by adding the missing minerals back into their diet.
Dr. Murray’s work is beautifully documented in Chuck Walters’ book, Fertility from the Ocean Deep. Chuck was the founder and editor of Acres USA (another awesome resource!).
The third challenge with getting sufficient minerals from our diets is that most of us no longer have a healthy gut microbiome.
As we understand it, the ‘health-supporting bugs’ in our intestines actually predigest the foods we eat, which makes the nutrition more easily available for our bodies to uptake.
Without a healthy gut microbiome, eating the most nutritious diet would still leave us falling short. That’s why we think the expression, ‘we are what we eat’ isn’t quite accurate. Instead, we find it more accurate to say, ‘we are what we assimilate from what we eat’.
In other words, if we eat lots of quality foods but have less-than-optimal digestion and absorption capabilities, then ultimately we’re still going to fall short of our body’s nutritional needs.
OraWellness diet rule #1: Eat more quality fats 🙂
Let’s move on and discuss why we all need more fat-soluble vitamins and activators. The vitamins we are referring to here are vitamins A, D, E, and K (particularly vitamin K2).
While taking a deep dive into the many benefits of these vitamins is beyond the scope of this discussion, feel free to check out our resource, “Why eating healthy fats is our #1 diet hack to heal cavities“.
For this article, we’d like to share one example of how fat-soluble vitamins work synergistically and wind up supporting oral health.
Together, vitamins A and D stimulate cells in our bones to produce osteocalcin. The body uses osteocalcin to build new bone tissue and/or to reinforce existing bone tissue that needs support (including teeth that are demineralizing).
However, osteocalcin needs to be activated (in his research, Dr. Price observed the need for this mysterious activator and identified it as ‘activator X’).
We now know that vitamin K2 is what activates osteocalcin and readies it to plug into existing bone tissue.
In other words, without sufficient vitamin K2 in our diet, we can supplement all the vitamins A and D we want, but it won’t have anywhere close to the same beneficial impact as the synergistic combination of A, D, and K2.
(Incidentally, here’s a link to our expert interview with researcher Kiran Krishnan, who is super knowledgeable about K2 and osteocalcin. Also, if you would like to read a very thorough article on this subject, here’s a link to “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor”, by Chris Masterjohn over at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website.)
So, the real question is where can we get these vitamins all together in a highly available form (which from our perspective means a whole food form)?
Dr. Price determined that supplementing with a combination of cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil was a fabulous way of providing our bodies with lots of the fat-soluble vitamins that are needed for supporting oral health.
Before we get into what other foods are high in fat-soluble vitamins and available minerals, let’s reflect on more of Dr. Price’s findings.
The consequences of the processed ‘foods of commerce’…
Dr. Price compared people who were living traditional lifestyles with other people from the same villages who had moved into more modern towns and started eating the convenient, processed foods of commerce.
For the people who ate their traditional foods, Dr. Price found that the average percentage of decay in all the teeth he studied was right around 2%.
In contrast, for people who came from the same villages but who had changed to more modern diets, the percentage of decay jumped up to an average of over 30%, with a high of over 70% among Australian aborigines who had been living on modern diets!
There’s no way around it; diet plays an integral role in any path to optimal oral health. If you stop and think about it, this really makes sense.
“Unless our bodies have the nutritional building blocks they need to thrive, they will do the best they can with substandard resources, which will result in substandard health.” – OraWellness.com
Fat-soluble food sources…
So, what foods provide us with lots of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins?
Well, many of them happen to be out of favor in terms of what our modern society says is ‘healthy’ and ‘delicious’.
Foods that are high in some of these fat-soluble vitamins include: eggs from animals raised on pasture, cream and butter from animals raised on pasture, organ meats from animals raised on pasture, and even some cheeses.
Quality is key…
It’s important to note that the quality of the food we eat plays a big part in the level of nutrition that these foods will provide.
Animals must live on pasture, eat their natural food sources, and have access to lots of sunlight in order for them to get the nutrients they need. This nutrition accumulates in them and will later be passed to us via the animal products we eat.
For example, we mentioned that vitamin K2 is important for activating vitamins A and D and for making them available for bone production. Well, animals create K2 from the vitamin K1 that they get from eating green grass.
In fact, the amount of K2 in animal products drops significantly when the animal is not raised on green grass.
The lesson here is to find quality sources of animal products.
Organic is always wise, too.
We totally understand and agree that it would be great if we could live healthy, vital lives without having to consume animal products.
However, from our studies of history and nutrition, we have found that we are gratefully and hopelessly dependent on animals to optimize our nutritional needs.
More nutritious food sources for supporting oral (and whole-body) health…
Let’s quickly offer a list of foods that we consider to be some of the best nutritional components of a healthy diet.
Again, one important source is quality products from healthy animals living in their natural environments.
This includes eggs from pastured chickens or ducks, fish eggs, the organ meats of cattle and other grazing animals, pastured chickens, and wild caught fish as well as dairy products from pastured cattle, goats or other milk-producing livestock.
Another big source of healthy fats and proteins (along with a bunch of very available minerals) is homemade bone broths or stocks made from the bones of healthy animals that lived on pasture.
We consider bone broths to be a foundational component of a healthy diet. Every traditional culture has their version of grandma’s chicken soup that they rely on to provide their families lots of nourishment in a very easy-to-digest form.
Also, any discussion about optimizing diet for greater oral health should include naturally fermented foods, which are so important because they increase the beneficial bacteria in our guts. Like we mentioned above, the health-supporting bugs in our digestive systems make the food we eat available to absorb!
We consider foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut as well as homemade kefir and yogurt (if you do dairy), to be fundamental parts of a healthy diet, as these foods nourish and support a healthy bacterial colonization in our bellies.
Butter’s special place in our home…
If you lean toward a vegetarian diet, then look at the traditional Indian diet and how they eat A LOT of dairy products in the form of clarified butter (called ‘ghee’) and yogurt-like cultured milk products.
We really consider butter to have an important foundation in any healthy diet. However, in order to help optimize our oral health, we must get the best butter possible.
An easy way to determine the quality of butter is to simply look at its color: the paler the color, the fewer vitamins it contains. We may have to write a whole separate article just on butter. It really does deserve the individualized attention. 🙂
As an interesting side note, consuming animal products like fatty cuts of beef and organ meats is the very best way to stabilize and optimize blood phosphorus which, as you know from “What Causes Tooth Decay? (AND How Can We Stop it?)“, is key for keeping our teeth healthy.
So, to wrap up today’s discussion, if we want to reach optimal oral health like our ancestors experienced, we must maximize the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in our diets by eating the highest quality foods we can.
In the third article in this series, we’ll explore which foods undermine our ability to create optimal oral health and why.
Please comment below if you find this information helpful, and as always, if you know someone who could benefit from this information, please share it with them.
If you’d like to learn more about how diet can support or undermine our oral health, here’s a link to check out our free video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
Also, to 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”.
Thank you and Aloha!
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth [Free e-book]
What Causes Tooth Decay? (AND How Can We Stop it?) [article]
What foods undermine our oral health and why [article]
Fertility from the Ocean Deep [amazon link]
An easy step toward stopping tooth decay [article]
Why eating healthy fats is our #1 diet hack to heal cavities [article]
How to reverse cavities and restore brain and heart health with vitamin K2 [expert interview]
On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved [article]
Did we stumble upon the Holy Grail of morning warm drinks??? [article]
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [Free video tutorial course]