The Real Cause OF Tooth Decay Part 1

Approximately 91% of Americans have had a cavity, and the number jumps to 96% for those over age 65.  80% of adults have gum disease. It may be shocking to hear about this, but it should be even more shocking that tooth decay is a disease that was virtually absent in our grain and gluten free ancestors.   What we have found is that it is our shifts in dietary habits that have lead us to this sorry state of affairs.


We can go back to the 1930’s, to the work of Dr. Weston A. Price for an explanation. Dr. Price was a dentist who travelled around the globe each year for about ten years to seek out groups of people who were decay free. He started in Switzerland and Scotland initially, and worked his way up to the arctic dwelling Inuits, all the way down to the Pacific islands and the Aborigines of Australia. He found two groups of people in each area. One group was made up of the people in their particular area still eating the way their ancestors ate for thousands of years.  The other group was comprised of the people that switched to modern foods. What he found was a surprising lack of tooth decay in the traditionl groups, even though they did not brush or floss, and had no dentists or hygienists. Conversely, the groups that switched to modern foods had skyrocketing decay rates.


The groups and locations were extremely varied, as were their diets.  He studied the nutritional content of all of the distinct diets.  There emerged a pattern in the healthy groups.  He found that compared to the groups eating the modern diets, the traditional  diets contained four times the amount of the water soluble vitamins like vitamins B and C.  He also found that they were eating ten times the amount of the fat soluble vitamins D, A and K2. The water soluble vitamins especially vitamin C help with connective tissues and healing, while the fat soluble vitamins help calcium stay out of the soft tissues and find their way into the hard tissues like teeth and bone. I will talk about which foods contain these nutrients in Part 2.


The groups that started eating modern foods had added refined flours (many of which contain gluten), sugar, and seed oils like corn oil.  These were termed “the displacing foods of modern commerce” due to the fact that once these foods were added to their diet; they no longer ate the nutrient dense traditional foods.  They went from virtually decay free mouths to modern levels of tooth decay overnight.  He termed this phenomenon “ the canary in the coal mine”.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term, it means an early warning sign.  It was an early warning sign because the cavities were the first problem to appear in a long list of other health issues that followed.


Think of this: food spends minutes per day in our mouths.  If it is able to create tooth decay and gum disease in that time, what happens when it gets swallowed?  It maintains its propensity to cause trouble as it remains in our bodies for hours and even days. A short list of other health problems associated with a poor diet include: obesity, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, GERD (heartburn) and Alzheimer’s disease.


When the body has too much of certain nutrients or not enough of another it will suffer from malnutrition. The Latin root “mal” means evil or bad. We usually think of emaciated starving people when we hear the word malnutrition. The truth is that malnutrition means any type of poor nutrition.  So when a cavity arises, it is a sign of malnutrition.  This may seem surprising, but if you believe the above information, it is nonetheless true.  A cavity is an early warning sign of the potential for other health issues.


It is very important to visit your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup.  At Dental Associates, we can identify problems in your mouth and recommend the proper treatments and  diet to prevent further decay and other potentially fatal health issues.  Give us a call today if you are overdue for a cleaning.

In part 2, I will be discussing in greater detail which nutrients to strive for in your diet and which ones to minimize.