In her weekly column, nutritionist Nonie De Long shares nutrition secrets for building stronger teeth and gums
Dear Nutritionist, I read a testimonial online that you helped a woman with her daughter’s cavities. Can you tell me what that involves? I have bad teeth. I have had multiple cavities and they are getting loose now with my gums receding. And they are sensitive. I’d like to know if there is anything I can do. — Marna
I was just listening to a podcast on holistic dental health care this week on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Radio Podcast. He was talking with Trina Felber (RN, BSN, MSN, CRNA), who created a natural product line that addresses dental health issues when her young child was born with a cavity. She became curious, did her research, saw a need, and created an entire product line to treat the issue. During her research she stumbled on the work of Weston Price. Let me tell you who this guy was and how it relates to your issue.
Who was Weston Price and what did he do?
Weston Price (1870 — 1948) was a prominent Canadian dentist with a very inquiring mind. He theorized about the bacteria in teeth and did numerous extractions and experiments to determine if the bacteria in a diseased tooth impacts the body. During this time, he founded and was chairman of the National Dental Association, which became the research branch of the early American Dental Association. But he wanted more answers.
He wanted to know what caused dental health and disease and by 1930 set out to remote parts of the world with a camera and his wife to find and document the answer. He spent 10 years doing this, at a time when the camera required an animal to carry it! His photos of children from around the world, displaying healthy teeth and unhealthy teeth have become quite famous (see below). Many of us may have seen them, but until we study his work we really don’t understand the context.
What he found was shocking
What Price found as he travelled to remote places around the world was that traditional peoples who ate traditional diets had incredible dental health, despite lack of what we today call dental hygiene. They had good dental formation with a wide dental arch, straight, well formed, white teeth, and very few, if any cavities. They also enjoyed good physical health overall, with nice features and good physiques.
On the other hand he found that any of the tribe who had moved toward town and adopted a modern, processed food diet started almost immediately to show advanced dental decay — with poor dental arch formation in offspring within one generation, overlap and poor formation of teeth, narrowing of the jaw, numerous cavities, and a whole host of developmental and physical ailments in those groups, as well. The dental health of a person was a mirror of their overall health.
His studies included groups from Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Indigenous peoples of North and South America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori. The diets of these peoples are extremely varied, but he found commonalities.
He summarized his observations
His studies of their diets showed that they provided at least four times the water soluble vitamins and minerals of the modern American diet at the time, and at least ten times the fat soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, eggs, organ meats, and animal fats – the very foods we have been taught are unhealthy because of their fat content. He discovered that the fat soluble vitamins A and D are essential for good dental and overall health because they act as catalysts to facilitate mineral and protein absorption and utilization. He also found something he called Activator X, which is present in fish liver oils and grass-fed butter — which we now know to be vitamin K2.
He also found that most tribes had rituals wherein they would consume special nutrient dense animal foods prior to conception to create healthier offspring. These same foods were given to pregnant and lactating women to foster healthier babies.
Price’s observations were summarized in his seminal work, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. A foundation has been made in his legacy to continue to promote his work today via The Weston A. Price Foundation.
What is the takeaway for dental health today?
The takeaway is that we need the fat soluble vitamins found in animal products if we want good dental health. This, in a nutshell, is why I eat and recommend an omnivore diet. Not because I prefer meat or don’t like plant based foods, but because I understand the health implications of not getting enough fat soluble vitamins.
For clients who don’t consume animal products because of their religious / ethical beliefs I suggest they take supplements. Supplements are inferior to whole foods, but at least they can get some of these valuable nutrients this way.
What are the dietary guidelines for good dental health?
The diets that Weston Price found in the tribes he visited are summarized by these principles, taken directly from The Weston A. Price Foundation website:
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
- Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry and eggs from pasture-fed animals.
- Eat wild fish (not farm-raised), fish eggs and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
- Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, full-fat raw cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
- Use animal fats, such as lard, tallow, egg yolks, cream and butter liberally.
- Use only traditional vegetable oils—extra virgin olive oil, expeller-expressed sesame oil, small amounts of expeller-expressed flax oil, and the tropical oils—coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
- Take cod liver oil regularly to provide at least 10,000 IU vitamin A and 1,000 IU vitamin D per day.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Use vegetables in salads and soups, or lightly steamed with butter.
- Use organic whole grains, legumes and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors and other anti-nutrients. (These are non-gmo, ancient grains)
- Include enzyme-rich lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
- Prepare homemade stocks from the bones of pastured poultry, beef, pork and lamb fed non-GMO feed, and from wild seafood. Use liberally in soups, stews, gravies and sauces.
- Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
- Use unrefined salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
- Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and a small amount of expeller-expressed flax oil.
- Use traditional sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, date sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice (sold as Rapadura) and green stevia powder. Some others might include monkfruit or palm sugar.
- Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
- Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
- Use only natural, food-based supplements.
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
- Think positive thoughts and practice forgiveness.
Which supplements are important for teeth?
The most important supplements for dental/ bone health are the fat soluble vitamins A and D, in their fat soluble form: fish liver oils. These also contain Omega 3s, which can be further supplemented with Omega 3 fish oil if you feel you don’t get enough. In Canada many people need to supplement with vitamin D3 and there are now D3 supplements that contain K2. Always use the highest quality supplements you can find. If you are uncertain, reach out for help.
Wherever possible, it’s best to get these nutrients from food. To learn how to make nutritious and delicious soups from bone broths, go to my events page on my website and sign up for my live Sensational Soups cooking class. In it we cook soups together from bone broth, with only natural seasonings. Attendees get a downloadable cookbook at the end of class. If you think soups are boring or you’re looking to incorporate bone broth in your diet, or you need some inspiring lunch ideas – this is a great class to take.
In addition to these dietary principles, opting for more natural dental products is a good idea if you are serious about dental health. We have been brainwashed into thinking we need chemicals on our teeth to fight the bad effects of ingested chemicals in our bodies. This is utter nonsense. We now know, for example, that fluoride is a toxic substance and that mouthwash kills the natural bacteria in the mouth. Traditional peoples used none of this junk and yet had perfect teeth! For more information on this and the natural products that are available, I suggest you tune into the Dave Asprey podcast I recommended earlier.
For my clients I recommend special clay or charcoal dental powders, with olive oil pulling if necessary for gum health and a very soft bristle brush. Additional vitamin C powder in proper doses can also help with receding gums. But the bone broth is by far the most essential!
The bottom line is that dental health is primarily about our nutrition and we can easily influence that by making a switch to consume more natural foods with fat soluble vitamins starting today.
I hope this is helpful, Marna. As always, if readers have health questions, they can send me an email at email@example.com. Have a lovely week everyone!