We hear how genetics are reasonable for our health and the health of our mouth. Would you be surprised to hear it is less about our genes and more about our habits? The bacteria in our mouths is what is called familial meaning families that live together share the same bacteria. We also share the same habits. Our Genes do play a role but are as big of one as we originally thought. Think about it, who teaches you to brush when you are little who cooks for our moms? Our moms teach us what they were taught. We cook the meals we were given as kids unless we wake up and realize the diet we were taught to eat may not be the healthiest for our overall health.
There are many reasons to learn what foods are right for you and your family. I ate a lot of vegetables in my family. They were always cut up in the fridge for a snack. When I got married my husband’s family had a big meal every night, meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. So we started eating that way more nights than not. Ordering pizza one night a week. After a while, I did not feel so good. I was tired and had headaches. That diet was not right for my body but cooking two different meals or only eating the vegetables was not what I chose to do. I took the easy way out instead of doing what my body needed. We are all different and process foods differently. My family is sensitive to preservatives. So when I watch what I put in my mouth and listen to my body I feel a whole lot better, sleep better, and am less achy.
I have been in the dental field for over thirty years, I have watched chronic disease progress in my patients, my family, and in myself.
Our healthcare system treats millions of people with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Half of the U.S. population suffers from chronic gum disease. Tooth decay is the # 1 chronic disease in children.
Yes, you read that right—disease!
Health professionals understand the fact that disease in the mouth has consequences to our entire body. Yet we do not often discuss this piece of the health puzzle. After all these years we still see our mouth separate from the rest of our body. If we want to truly manage chronic disease we need to start with our mouth. Dental diseases, bleeding gums, cavities are early warning signs for the rest of the body. If you have dental problems your body is out of balance.
One of the major shifts in modern medicine is recognizing the role of gut health and food as medicine. The myth that we have soft teeth that run in our family and disease is genetic is being disproven. Our family history and the gene pool is no longer the key factor of our future health. It’s our habits and choices that create a picture of our health status. The health of our mouth is crucial to the rest of our body, yet most people don’t give it a second thought until there is pain or worse embarrassment.
I was given tetracycline as a child which stained my teeth. I had big yellow/ brown spots on my two front teeth and the rest were dark and gray, so I have always been very aware of my teeth and just how important they are to how people treat you. I did not smile much because the other kids pointed and laughed. Teeth became a lifelong obsession! Smiling is universal! When you smile it releases good endorphins that make you happier. When you have bad teeth and don’t want to smile it not only cuts you off from others it stops those chemicals that make you feel good from your own brain. Explains a lot about me and my childhood and why I struggled to make friends. People thought I was mad or not happy. I was just embarrassed. Having my smile restored changed my life and my self-esteem. I wanted to give back and help people who felt like me growing up. Giving someone their smile back is priceless!
I am still amazed that so many people have no interest in taking care of their mouths. They say it is too expensive yet they get their hair and nails done and will pay for whitening and do it yourself braces without even knowing if their mouth is healthy.
We have all heard we should brush floss, avoid sugary or acidic beverages and visit the dentist twice a year. But what we don’t know is that it is just a piece of the puzzle. Few people understand how their teeth and jaws are formed and how important the food we feed our kiddos is to their health, growth, and development.
Since the Industrial Revolution and changing from hunter-gatherers to farmers our foods are now softer and processed so we chew less which has created misaligned teeth and smaller dental arches. Our upper dental arch is the floor of our nasal cavity. Sleep-disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea are a result. Oral disease is both a warning and the cause of chronic diseases that are harming our bodies.
Covid has been a wake-up call. Wearing masks for over a year now has created more mouth breathers and more chronic dental diseases. It has become a vicious cycle. You just had to go to the grocery store and see what foods were missing off the shelves to see what we are consuming is making us sicker.
Cavities and crooked teeth affect over 4 million kids in the U.S. alone. It is becoming more apparent we are focusing on the wrong things. We should be focusing on how our mouth connects to the health of our entire body. We are ignoring what our mouth is trying to tell us.
Much of the dietary advice for oral health is founded on the findings of the late Dr. Weston A. Price, a Cleveland dentist who was determined to find out what makes for good dental health by studying indigenous tribes who, he said, had “fine teeth” and few chronic health problems.
Price devoted his life to how our mouth and our diet are connected to chronic illness. He studied a wide variety of racial, cultural, and historical backgrounds where the dental disease was nonexistent, crooked teeth and tooth decay were rare and none of these people even knew what a toothbrush was. They had well-formed dental arches. He began to see a pattern and correlation to diet and proof that modern processed foods lacked crucial natural nutrients and made people sick.
If you want to have healthy teeth, and a healthy body you must start with what you put in your mouth.
While studying the oral health and diets of various native tribes, Price noticed distinct similarities:
- The foods were natural, unprocessed, and organic (and contained no sugar except for the occasional bit of honey or maple syrup)
- They ate foods that grew in their native environment. In other words, they ate locally grown, seasonal foods
- Many of the cultures ate unpasteurized dairy products, and all of them ate fermented foods
- A significant portion of the food was eaten raw
- All of the cultures ate animal products, including animal fat, full-fat butter, and organ meats
When Price analyzed his findings, he found the native diets contained 10 times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins, and at least four times the amount of calcium, other minerals, and water-soluble vitamins as that of Western diets at that time. Their diets were also rich in enzymes because they ate fermented and raw foods (enzymes help you to digest cooked foods).
Importantly, the native diets also had at least 10 times more omega-3 fat than modern diets and far less omega-6 fats. Today, there’s ample evidence showing diets lacking in omega-3 fats while being heavy on omega-6s from vegetable oils (now found in most processed foods), are a recipe for disaster.
Modern research supports Price’s early observations, showing that even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease.
If we want to continue learning how to optimize health, we have to stay open to new information that might contradict previous research, even if it questions the status quo.
Health, teeth, and what we eat go hand in hand. So, why are we not hearing more about diet when we talk about dental health?
The oral-systemic link tells us how tooth diseases affect your whole body (and vice versa).
Poor Diet Is the Primary Cause of Dental Decay
By far, too much sugar intake is the most significant factor in dental decay. Other primary causes of tooth decay cited in the medical literature include:
- Children going to bed with a bottle of milk or sweetened drinks or drinking from sugar drinks during the day
- Poor dental hygiene and poor access to and use of dental care
- Mineral deficiencies, which can weaken bones and teeth like magnesium
- Vitamin K is crucial for bone mineralization and unless you consume grass-fed organic animal products and non pasteurized fermented foods on a regular basis, there is a good chance you might be deficient in this important nutrient
- Taking medications that promote tooth decay by causing dry mouth
Your risk of cavities increases the more sugar you eat — and this was found to be true despite regular use of fluoridated water and/or fluoridated toothpaste. According to this study, to minimize your risk of cavities, sugar should make up no more than 3 percent of your total energy intake with 5 percent noted as a more realistic goal.
It’s time to go back to eating real, whole foods that are good for your teeth. Foods that are good for not just teeth but are good for your whole body. Foods that will also help to prevent sickness make you feel better, perform better, and look better.
According to the CDC, cavities are the most common chronic disease in U.S children.
We need to have a discussion of diet, cavities, facial growth, and development in children. What we feed our children determines the destiny of… their oral health, their microbiome and gut , and even their sleep quality!
- About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
- 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
- Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%).
The CDC recommends a fluoride varnish and visiting your dentist 2 times a year but if you don’t have access to care or do not like fluoride:
- Cutting out goldfish crackers—they are the #1 most cariogenic (cavity-causing food) that I see wreaking havoc in the mouths of kiddos
- Using a hydroxyapatite toothpaste—more info on the studies that support hydroxyapatite as an alternative to fluoride that is just as effective and at the same time, safe enough to swallow
- Using mouth tape for mouth breathing—see my blog for recommendations on which brands to use and how to use them
If your kiddo has cavities, hygiene brushing is a factor but it’s not the ONLY factor. Plenty of parents are doing everything right with brushing and flossing and yet their kids keep getting cavities! It doesn’t have to be this way. It could be what they are eating. It could be pH. It could be how they are breathing and sleeping.
Enamel is more resistant to acid, the period of time we are exposed to teeth to wine, soda, lemonade, orange juice, and other acidic substances plays a role.
Buffer these acids by drinking a neutral drink like water alongside the acidic drink. Europeans practice this regularly they drink mineral water with their wines.
Foods That Fight Bad Breath
Certain dietary choices can also contribute to or prevent a common side effect of poor oral health, namely bad breath (halitosis), caused by oral bacteria that produce foul-smelling sulfur compounds during protein breakdown. Clearly, if you struggle with bad breath, you need to address your overall diet and/or daily oral hygiene. That said, the following foods may also help fight bad breath:
- Cinnamon, has an antimicrobial effect, which helps prevent odor-causing bacteria
- Water. Making sure you’re well-hydrated by drinking more water can help stimulate saliva production, Dry mouth promotes microbial growth that can lead to bad breath
- Strawberries. are high in water content and vitamin C help prevent odor-causing bacteria
- Green tea contains antioxidants that help prevent and destroy odor-causing bacteria
- Parsley, apple, and spinach — all three of which contain polyphenols that help break down smelly sulfur compounds
Coconut Oil Is Excellent for Oral Health
Coconut oil is a powerful inhibitor of a large variety of pathogenic organisms, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa, largely due to its naturally high lauric acid content. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can destroy lipid-coated viruses — including herpes, influenza, and measles — as well as gram-negative bacteria and protozoa.
“It acts much like the oil you put in your car engine. The oil picks up dirt and grime. When you drain the oil, it pulls out the dirt and grime with it, leaving the engine relatively clean. Consequently, the engine runs smoother and lasts longer. Likewise, when we expel harmful substances from our bodies our health is improved and we run smoother and last longer.”
Our oral bacteria can help you prevent cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure—If you nourish them.
High blood pressure is a big deal. It’s estimated to account for close to 10 million deaths worldwide, ranking higher than tobacco use, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity for leading global risks for mortality.
The connection between your oral health and whether your body can produce adequate nitric oxide is part of a system known as the enterosalivary circuit. This circuit is highly important to your blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and systemic health.
Understanding more about the role that the oral microbiome plays in systemic health will enable you to prevent and find treatments that rely more on supporting the good oral microflora to reduce the use of antimicrobials.|
The human microbiome begins in the mouth and continues through your digestive system. It sounds crazy, but bacteria in the digestive system can affect the health of your teeth.
Digestion starts in the mouth with the salivary system
Saliva interacts with the oral microbiome when Nitrate-rich food, such as leafy green vegetables, are ingested.
Nitrate is absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, the oral microflora, particularly nitrate-reducing bacteria, resid on the dorsal surface of the tongue the biofilm convert nitrate to nitrite, and also to nitric oxide (NO) which can be absorbed through the tongue or through swallowing back into the gastrointestinal system for absorption.
Source: J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8(8), 1110
Our bodies were not meant to eat all the processed foods we consume these days. Our food is literally making us sick and tired. If we start eating the way we used to, food can be our medicine. If we are intentional and make good choices or grow and kill our own food again.
The mouth-body connection also shows us the problems caused by oxygen deprivation. The first sign of a lack of oxygen may be seen in your dental health. Sleep disorders, snoring causes, sleep apnea symptoms, and a blocked sinus can all begin in the mouth.
The oral-systemic link shows how teeth diseases, healthy digestion, and sleep disorders all begin with the same problem. Everything starts with your dental health.
The mouth is the gateway to the gut. There really is no way we can overestimate the importance and impact of our oral health when preventing and treating chronic health issues. How we breathe, what we put in our mouth, and how we take care of our mouth are big pieces of the puzzle when we talk about total body health. Have you been making the mouth-body connection?
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Gut, Healthy Body, Healthy Life