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Weren’t we all told in English class to avoid absolute terms such as “everyone,” “none,” “never,” and “always”? Maybe the writer of this Reader’s Digest headline was absent that day:

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According to the list that follows, one thing dentists “always” do is use a lot of fluoride – in toothpaste, in mouthwash, through fluoride treatments.

The truth of the matter? Plenty of dentists don’t, holistic or otherwise. Fluoride is a toxin, after all, and any benefits far outweigh the potential risks. As we’ve noted before, research has shown that, at best, topical fluoride may slightly slow the decay process. It doesn’t actually prevent it.

A more effective way to prevent cavities is to address its primary cause: what you eat. As one paper in the Journal of Dental Research put it,

The importance of sugars as a cause of caries is underemphasized and not prominent in preventive strategies. This is despite overwhelming evidence of its unique role in causing a worldwide caries epidemic. Why this neglect? One reason is that researchers mistakenly consider caries to be a multifactorial disease; they also concentrate mainly on mitigating factors, particularly fluoride. However, this is to misunderstand that the only cause of caries is dietary sugars. These provide a substrate for cariogenic oral bacteria to flourish and to generate enamel-demineralizing acids. Modifying factors such as fluoride and dental hygiene would not be needed if we tackled the single cause — sugars.

Here, “sugars” are more than just the white stuff you might be thinking of but also refined starches and other highly processed carbs – what we call “fermentable carbs.” These are the preferred fuel of the bacteria and fungi that lead to cavities.

When you routinely eat an alkalinizing, whole-foods based diet, with lots of fresh organic veg, organic sustainably raised meats and other animal products, and healthy fats, you effectively starve those pathogens.

tooth viewed in dental mirrorMore, you support one of the natural defense systems of your teeth: the fluid that flows through the microscopic tubules that make up the dentin, the layer of tissue between the enamel and living pulp. Normally, this fluid flows outward, which helps repel harmful microbes. When you eat sugar and refined carbs, though, the flow reverses, pulling acids and pathogens into the tooth.

Suffice it to say that eating healthfully is one aspect of the “always” list that we can get behind – though it’s important to note that supporting healthy teeth requires more than just the calcium Reader’s Digest mentions. Calcium needs both magnesium and D3 in order to be absorbed and assimilated properly. The D3, in turn, needs vitamin K. Phosphorous has also been shown to be essential to strong, healthy teeth.

Eating a wholesome, organic diet – and getting enough exposure to sunlight (for the D) – is also the ideal way to ensure you get the full array of nutrients your teeth and gums need.

Practicing good home hygiene – brushing twice and flossing at least once a day – further supports their health.

And another “always” that actually is an always: seeing your dentist – at least once a year or more often if you, like most Americans, have some degree of gum disease. In the case of severe gum disease, deep cleanings every three months may be called for to keep it in check.

Ultimately, it’s vital that we see each patient as an individual – their particular health history, current health challenges, and desired outcomes – and provide the individualized treatment they deserve. That’s something we always do.

It’s key to holistic, biological dentistry, after all.

Image by Dr. Partha Sarathi Sahana

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