Causes of Tooth Decay
It’s critically important to help heal the misunderstandings that our culture has around how to navigate the path to greater oral health.
Let’s study 5 aspects of how diet and nutrition can impact oral health.
5 dietary recommendations to positively impact oral health
- Have sufficient fat-soluble vitamins in our diet (vitamins A, D, E, and K2)
- Have plenty of vitamins B and C in our diet
- Have sufficient minerals in our diet
- Avoid too many foods that are high in acid
- Avoid eating too much sugar (in all forms)
In this article, let’s explore the inner workings of diet’s impact on oral health.
To put into perspective the role that diet plays in helping or undermining our oral health, this first article is going to explore the work of Dr. Ralph Steinman.
Dr. Steinman was a dental researcher in the 1970s who did extensive research to determine the cause of tooth decay. He published his work in his amazing book, Dentinal Fluid Transport. He conducted tens of thousands of experiments on lab rats to determine the cause of tooth decay. What he found may surprise you.
What is dentinal fluid flow? (and how does it impact my oral health?)
Fundamentally, what Dr. Steinman discovered is that our teeth are alive.
Contrary to the popular cultural belief that teeth are like small rocks, the fact is that our teeth have fluid running through them, and this is called ‘dentinal fluid flow’.
The dentin is the layer of tissue in each of our teeth that’s just between the hard outer (enamel) surface and the inner soft tooth pulp.
Dr. Steinman discovered that this dentinal fluid flow is part of the blood circulation that goes into and out of each of our teeth.
He also discovered that when the dentinal fluid is flowing from the inside of the tooth outward, the teeth are very resistant to decay. However, when the fluid flow reverses and flows from the outer surface of the tooth towards the inner portion of the tooth, decay sets in very quickly.
The thug bugs in our mouths contribute to tooth decay. If the dentinal fluid is flowing the healthy way, this flow prevents the thug bugs from being able to decay the teeth; the flow washes them out of the teeth. It’s like they have to swim upstream to get into the teeth. On the other hand, if the dentinal fluid flow reverses, then it’s like the thug bugs get a free pass on a highway right into our teeth!
Dr. Steinman found that dentinal fluid flow is controlled by the parotid gland, a part of our salivary system that is located in the region behind our lower jaw. Then he discovered that the parotid gland is controlled by the part of our brain called the hypothalamus. For the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to this relationship between dentinal fluid flow, the parotid gland, and the hypothalamus as ‘dentinal fluid flow’.
With these pieces in place, Dr. Steinman’s work helped us to understand that a healthy, balanced diet not only helps to control the thug bugs responsible for dental decay, but also helps to maintain a healthy, living tissue within the teeth that can help resist decay through healthy dentinal fluid flow.