Mindful Metropolis — November 2011
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Controlling Cavities With Food
Dr. Bernice Teplitsky

if cavities are a problem despite good dental habits, it could be your diet

Twice a year, you climb into the dental chair, grip your fingers around the arms of the recliner, hold your breath and hope that you will evade those dreaded words: “You have a cavity.” You prepare for this appointment in advance; brushing, flossing and using your oral irrigator ... “I’m doing everything I can, Doc. Why do I keep getting cavities?” If this sounds familiar, you may benefit by examining your diet.

The scientific look at cavities

The natural pH of the mouth is between6. 3 and 6.8, depending on the source. After eating, carbohydrates and bacteria in the mouth combine to convert the food— especially sugar and starch—into acid. This acid mixes with saliva and food debris to create plaque, the sticky, gooey white-fuzzy film layer that can be noticed on your teeth after not brushing. Once the acidity causes the pH to drop below 5.5, cavity-causing bacteria emerge and start to eat away at the tooth surface, creating a hole commonly known as a cavity. It’s the job of saliva and other alkaline agents like water to increase the salivary pH back to baseline.

What can be done to avoid cavities? Ready for a challenge?

Of course, brushing and flossing after each meal to remove the plaque is ideal. If this sounds too challenging and even unrealistic, I tell my busy patients to rinse their mouth with water and chew sugarless gum (preferably with xylitol) after meals to abate the acidity.

One way to prevent a pH drop below 5.5 is to replace fermentable carbohydrates (all processed food) and sugar (the main causes of tooth decay) with more alkaline foods such as fresh whole foods.

Studies find that children with many cavities, compared to children without any cavities:

» Consume more sugary drinks, such as soda and juice

» Have more frequent meals per day

» Eat before bed

» Drink less water

» Drink juice in between meals

» Eat sticky, retentive foods (sticky candy, honey, etc.)

» Consume more processed foods

Are you doomed if you already have a cavity? Is it reversible?

It is common thinking that once a cavity forms, the tooth is condemned to a filling.The book Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel summarizes the work of Dr. Weston Price and shows, using the diet on his own two-year-old daughter, that tooth decay is in fact reversible.

Dr. Westin Price, prominent dentist and first research director of the National Dental Association, traveled to different countries to investigate indigenous cultures from Loetschental Valley, Switzerland to the Aborigines of Australia and others without cavities and with beautifully straight, natural teeth.Most of these cultures had also never used a toothbrush and had never seen a doctor. What he found was that civilizations that ate a diet traditional to their culture had an extremely low rate of tooth decay. He also found that once a Western diet of processed food (white flour and sugar) was introduced, children and adults alike developed tooth decay. Dr. Price advocated eating a diet similar to that of one’s native roots and stressed the importance of balancing the body’s ratio of calcium and phosphorus. He also recommended 1 teaspoon of fermented cod-liver oil and highvitamin butter oil per day to increase Vitamin A and D and mineral metabolism respectively.

To keep tooth decay at bay using Dr. Price’s diet is challenging, requires dedicated perseverance and is not for everyone. In certain situations, filling a tooth is highly recommended.Although treating cavities with diet alone is an excellent, seldom-suggested option, please do not attempt this on your own. Make sure you work together with a knowledgeable, healthconscious dentist. As we learn to eliminate processed foods from our diet, we may ultimately be able to eradicate cavities altogether.The fear of being diagnosed with dental decay at every check-up has the ability to lie dormant.Take control of your own health and embark on a journey to a cavity-free life.