Holistic Dentistry Can Help Reverse Cavities
Going to the dentist is a chore that almost no one looks forward to; it’s painful, expensive, and no matter what, you’ll probably be told you’re not flossing enough. Some dentists might tell you that your issues are a matter of genetics, but that’s probably not true. This led one dentist to the realization that the intrinsic problem is not a matter of legacy, but instead a matter of diet, realizing a way to reverse cavities simply by adjusting what one eats.
How to Get Rid of Cavities
We all know processed sugar and sweets are prime contributors to cavities, but there are also vitamins and nutrients that, when deficient in our diet, can lead to tooth decay. Calcium and Vitamin D are two of these nutrients we know are responsible for strong bones and healthy teeth. But what most don’t realize is that these vitamins can be neutralized by phytic acid in the digestive process. Phytic acid and phytates act as a storage mechanism of phosphorous in plants, but when consumed by humans they aren’t broken down, instead binding with other nutrients that neutralize them in the process.
So where do phytates come from? Grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and in lesser quantities, vegetables. But aren’t these types of food essential sources of certain nutrients themselves? Well, yes, and the answer is complicated; phytates are also known to have antioxidant properties, and their binding effect can be good for people who consume an overabundance of minerals like iron.
The big takeaway is that an overabundance of phytates in your diet can lead to weaker teeth and more cavities if not balanced with an abundance of specific nutrients. And our diets are packed with foods that contain these phytates. With the average western diet containing copious amounts of processed sugars, grains, and vegetable oil, it’s no wonder the dental industry is booming.
From a young age, we’ve been exposed to this type of diet, with the food pyramid’s foundation consisting of bread, cereals, and wheat. Although sugar is the smallest segment of the pyramid, it has found its way into almost all of the food we eat. At the same time, meat and dairy are also small segments on the pyramid, but according to research based on a diet optimized for healthy teeth, these food groups should be your foundation.
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Weston Price’s Holistic Dentistry
This diet was created by Weston Price, founder of the National Dental Association and pioneer in holistic dentistry. The concept of holistic dentistry isn’t a complete abandonment of modern dental hygiene practices, but rather it focuses on dental hygiene in the context of one’s overall health.
Price travelled all over the world visiting remote tribes in far-flung locations, from Aboriginals, to Eskimos, and Native Americans. He noticed that these indigenous people all had one thing in common; surprisingly healthy teeth. Price found that tooth decay was rare in these cultures and formative issues like crowding and misalignment were non-existent.
Price quickly attributed this to their non-westernized diet that often included fatty meats, fish, dairy and butter. He wasn’t pointing to a hyper-specific diet, instead it was a lack of the aforementioned elements of the westernized diet.
When indigenous people were introduced to the western diet, they soon experienced the same dental ailments that we are all so accustomed to. Price used these learnings to create a holistic approach of integrative dentistry.
The paleo diet that has become so trendy lately, is very similar to Price’s diet and may have even been inspired by it. Though the Weston Price Foundation points out that paleo is distinctly different from Price’s diet and avoids the key foods it intended to bolster.
Weston Price’s diet primarily considers fat and butter to be two ingredients that should be consumed regularly and liberally, while the paleo diet focuses on lean meats, no fat, and no butter. Where the two converge is in their aversion to grains and legumes, due to their high levels of phytates.
But while paleo is strictly no grains, Price’s diet concedes that grains, legumes, nuts and plants can be prepared in a way that neutralizes those phytates, before they neutralize the nutrients in your stomach. Price’s diet also promotes the consumption of lacto-fermented foods, especially vegetables as this is one method of prep that can limit or neutralize phytates; and it’s good for your gut microbiome.
While a large part of Price’s diet advocates the consumption of butter and milk, dairy intolerance is a pretty common modern malady. An acceptable alternative is ghee, or clarified butter. Ghee is essentially butter with the dairy solids removed and is high in calories and fat, but has no carbs or sugars – ideal for Price’s diet. Also found in butter and Ghee is Vitamin k2, a nutrient that has been labelled Activator X. Price’s diet touts the benefits of water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins and k2 is very much a fat-soluble vitamin. The diet recommends a tablespoon or more of ghee or butter every day to attain this vitamin that can activate tooth mineralization.
Can Teeth Heal Themselves?
Inspired by Price’s approach, two of his colleagues set out to test whether his diet would work to reverse tooth decay in a set of children between the ages of five and six. One of the researchers was May Mellanby, whose husband discovered that the primary cause of the bone condition Rickets was due to vitamin D deficiency. With her husband’s work, Price’s idea of vitamin deficiency leading to tooth decay, probably made perfect sense.
The two launched a clinical study to test the theory which was eventually published in the British Medical Journal. Of the children in the group, all showed fully erupted or badly formed teeth with dental caries (cavities). They recorded the degree of hardness of the children’s teeth as well as other qualities they would measure after changing their diets.
By strictly controlling the children’s diets, much to their chagrin, they transitioned them from cereal-rich, to vitamin D and calcium-rich foods for a period of six months. They found that there was an arrest in the development of new and existing caries and even found in some cases a re-mineralization of teeth.
They also saw that on average, there were 4.7 teeth per child that showed signs of arrest in existing caries. Their study noticed that oatmeal was a specific contributor in the cereal category, which was a major staple of the children’s diets. Mellanby and her colleague conceded that their study was done on bed-ridden children who were not active, making it easier to feed them a carbohydrate-restricted diet. They said that for healthy children, completely cutting out carbs wasn’t necessary, but restricting them could have a significant impact on healthy teeth.
So, can teeth heal themselves? The answer is yes, through an integrative approach found in this style of holistic dentistry. Is it for everyone? No, the diet should be tailored to those who need it, want it, or can handle it.
And this is certainly not a call to abandon modern dental practices, though some aren’t comfortable with the abundant use of fluoride and other metals that are commonly used. But if anything, whether one embraces Price’s diet and the potential benefits it could deliver, it’s at least prudent to have a conscious, healthy diet for not just oral hygiene, but overall health as well.
Why Do We Sleep? For More Reasons Than You May Think
Most of us spend about a third of our lives asleep, despite not really having an answer to the question, ‘why do we sleep?’ Now neuroscientists are realizing that sleep is more important than previously thought. They’re also realizing that the worn-out platitude, “you can sleep when you die,” is terrible advice, as that day will undoubtedly come sooner if you short yourself on a good night’s sleep.
You need to be getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night — there’s really no other way around it. And if you think you can healthily get by on less than that, there’s an almost 100 percent chance you’re fooling yourself.
Why is Sleep Important?
While the exact mechanisms of sleep are still being studied, neuroscientists like Matthew Walker, have discovered some interesting learnings about our bodies’ ability to function; what happens when we deprive ourselves of sleep; and the impacts sleep can have on society as a whole.
When we’re awake, Walker says that essentially, we’re causing low-level brain damage. By this he is referring to the build-up of the sticky, toxic junk in our brain, known as beta-amyloid. This accumulation of beta amyloid has been found to correspond with the onset of Alzheimer’s, among many other negative health effects correlated with a lack of sleep.
And sleep is beneficial as more than just a reparatory function, it also replenishes spent resources, and regulates hormone levels that dictate our appetite, cognitive function, and motor skills.
The two hormones that dictate whether we are hungry or full, leptin and ghrelin, have been observed to flare in the opposite direction when we are deprived of sleep. This inevitably leads to an increase in hunger, but even worse, it leads our bodies to crave unhealthy and fattening foods; those with heavy carbs, and less greens. In fact, people who run on four to five hours of sleep per night, tend to eat 200 to 300 more calories per day.
For men, sleep is an important regulator of hormones, most notably testosterone. Sleep deprived males can have the same virility and strength of a man 10 years their senior. For women, a lack of sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of breast cancer and drops in immune hormones.
According to Walker, just introducing a single night of four-hours sleep among a normal eight-hour sleep schedule, can bring about a 70 percent drop in natural cancer killing cells; the immune assassins that target malignant carcinogens.
Every day our bodies produce these cells and others to fend off disease and maintain our health, and while a cat nap might make you feel refreshed, it won’t make up for the loss of these cells.
Listen to Kat Duff talk about the importance of a good night’s sleep on this episode of Open Minds: