4 Ways Science Proves a Lack of Fluoride Is Not the Reason for Tooth Decay
Recent media attention has focused on the rising numbers of preschool-aged children with excessive dental problems. Kids are developing alarming numbers of cavities and having “grown-up” procedures done, like root canals and crowns.
Conventional wisdom tells us that we should throw some fluoride toothpaste on the problem. If kids were better at brushing, or if parents scrubbed their babies’ teeth as soon as the nubs broke through the gums, this issue wouldn’t exist.
But this raises some questions: how have human beings managed to survive this long without brushing their teeth? If fluoride toothpaste is the magic bullet that keeps your teeth from rotting out of your head, wouldn’t humans’ teeth have died out a long time ago?
And what about cultures that don’t brush? What about traditional hunter-gatherer societies that can’t run down to the corner store and pick up a tube of toothpaste? Their teeth must quickly rot, right?
Changes in Food Have Led to Changes in Health
Modern dentistry focuses on proper dental hygiene as the foundation for healthy teeth and gums. Brushing and flossing are important habits–as anyone who kisses you on a regular basis will tell you–but they’re not the most critical components of dental health.
Since the dawn of agriculture, food has been changing. As food continues to change, disease continues to increase. This includes tooth decay, malocclusion, and gum disease.
Archaeological evidence paints a picture of the dramatic change in human teeth and skulls over the last 10,000 years. A glimpse into history shows us that as societies’ dependence on agriculture grew, so did their dental problems.
Within the past several generations, food has changed dramatically. Processing, chemicals, dyes, and sweeteners are just several examples of the kinds of things our ancestors never dealt with.
If dental problems began when people started farming, imagine the impact modern food production has on oral health today.
Oral Probiotics are Instrumental in Keeping Teeth Healthy
In a society that is obsessed with cleanliness, it is difficult to imagine that bacteria are essential for good health. But in reality, it would be impossible to live without the friendly flora living in your digestive system.
Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, live in your mouth as well as your gut. Go to the store and look in any dental health section. You will find a selection of mouthwashes and toothpastes that are effective in killing off bacteria. You often hear that these are the germs that cause bad breath or dental problems, but what these products are actually doing is destroying the hard-working bacteria that help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Animal studies have shown that a lack of microbial activity in the mouth is one of the factors that leads to tooth decay. Even more striking, this lack of bacteria in the mouth can extend to future generations.
Vitamin C Status, Tooth Cleanliness, and Plaque
Observational studies have found an association between vitamin C levels and the amount of debris on teeth. Using 200 study subjects, researchers found that those who had the most build-up on their teeth also had the lowest vitamin C levels. Those who had the highest levels of vitamin C had significantly less accumulation on their teeth.
Research has discovered that the vitamin C levels in your blood have an impact on the amount of debris forming on your teeth, regardless of your brushing habits.
Plaque contains white blood cells and other elements that reflect issues that are happening internally. If vitamin C levels have such a strong impact on the amount of plaque that forms on your teeth, it may be possible that there are other nutritional factors at play. Further studies on the effects of nutrition on plaque formation could point to aspects of dental health that could change the way we view dental hygiene.
Conventional Wisdom is Rotting Your Teeth
Ever since the acceptance of Ancel Keys’ lipid hypothesis, nutrition experts have demonized fats in the diet and encouraged large amounts of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are most commonly consumed in their refined forms as wheat and sugar.
Researchers have been able to induce rampant cavities in a short period of time by feeding rodents high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. Restricting these refined carbohydrates has been found to prevent tooth decay and a variety of other diseases.
This information was common sense decades ago as doctors witnessed the declining health statuses that happened alongside the introduction of refined carbohydrates. As these products were incorporated into traditional diets, people began to suffer serious tooth decay. Oral disease was found to be a precursor to other diseases, as well.
The commonly accepted wisdom of today says that brushing each day with fluoride toothpaste will keep cavities and oral diseases at bay. The use of modern dental hygiene products and refined carbohydrates in the diet work against the body’s ability to maintain good oral and physical health. What was obvious to health authorities decades ago has now fallen by the wayside, and now our children pay the price.
However, by taking precautions and shifting your diet away from processed carbohydrates, you could be making a healthy body choice and a healthy choice for your teeth, too.
Cheraskin, Emmanuel. “The Invisible Toothbrush.” Weston A Price Foundation, 29 Mar. 2001. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
Saint Louis, Catherine. “Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities.” New York Times. 6 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
Lukacs, John R. “Dental Paleopathology and Agricultural Intensification in South Asia: New Evidence from Bronze Age Harappa.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 87.2 (1992): 133-50. Print.
Larsen, Clark Spencer. “Biological Changes in Human Populations with Agriculture.” Annual Review of Anthropology 24.1 (1995): 185-213. Print.
Keyes, P.H. “The Infectious and Transmissible Nature of Experimental Dental CariesFindings and Implications.” Archives of Oral Biology 1.4 (1960): 304-IN4. Print.
Hujoel, P. “Dietary Carbohydrates and Dental-Systemic Diseases.” Journal of Dental Research 88.6 (2009): 490-502. Print.
Yellowlees, Walter W., and Harold Dodd. “Correspondance.” British Medical Journal Nov 21 (1964): 1332. Print.