Cavities, Weston Price, and Primal Ramblings
Explanations for Cavities
Lately, I have been very interested in what causes cavities because I think that oral health is a very good indicator of overall health. I read a lot of articles through Google and some of Weston Price's studies of traditional people (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration). Through all of it, different explanations for tooth decay presented themselves. I believe the most commonly accepted explanation is that the bacteria in our mouths survive on sugar and excrete acid which chemically breaks down enamel of teeth. If I remember correctly, Price writes that an important component of oral health is sufficient vitamins and minerals in your saliva which allow teeth to remineralize. Another explanation is that when your body is starved for certain minerals, it will take them from your skeleton or teeth, which causes deterioration.
I think these explanations make good points. Bacteria explains why brushing your teeth is generally accepted as the best way to combat tooth decay. Sufficient minerals in your saliva would explain the remineralization of teeth that Price documented. I think it's important to note that cavities only form after the tooth erupts from the gum line and becomes exposed to food, bacteria, air, and saliva, so it must be one or more of those factors that cause (or fail to prevent) cavities.
I'm interested in knowing how the traditional people that Price studied were able to maintain nearly cavity-free mouths despite their teeth being covered with "green slime" and having no access to oral care or modern dentistry. Surely these people's mouths were dirty by today's standards and full of bacteria, but what prevented cavities from forming? Did they simply avoid eating food that acid-causing bacteria survived on? Or did their diet include plentiful vitamins and minerals to constantly remineralize and repair the teeth? Price even found that some Eskimos had teeth ground nearly to the gum line from making clothes, yet had no signs of tooth decay. Also, the traditional Swiss ate mostly fermented sourdough bread and cheese (not particularly Primal?), and once a week ate meat, and were almost cavity-free as well. I have yet to finish reading his entire book, but perhaps it is sugar which is the most important factor.
I have also been interested in what the differences between cavities and plaque are, whether or not plaque leads to cavities or tartar, and other things. In the past two weeks I performed a small experiment to determine whether or not fruit causes the fuzzy or rough feeling on my teeth, which I can only assume is plaque (you can scrape it off with your fingernails or a bit by brushing). Before the experiment, I ate a moderate amount of fruit, perhaps once a day and about a quarter of my meal each time. I had the slightly fuzzy feeling mostly on the back of my bottom front teeth. During the first week I ate a lot of fruit; over half of my food intake consisted of equal parts watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and to a lesser extent strawberries, grapes, and bananas. The fuzzy feeling didn't go away, but it didn't increase significantly either. The second week I immediately cut out all fruit from my diet, replacing it with a larger portion of meat, butter, and vegetables. Shortly thereafter, I noticed the feeling on my teeth had nearly disappeared and now my teeth feel smooth. I did not change my brushing or flossing habits at all, only my diet. My best explanation for this improvement is that the bacteria that had been thriving on my teeth quickly died off once their food source (sugar) was removed.
In light of the lifestyle of traditional people, is brushing your teeth with toothpaste really necessary? I find some things in toothpaste suspicious:
Abrasives - wear down your enamel?
Sodium laurel sulphate (foaming agent) - I've heard this causes sores in the mouth, irritant
Glycerin - I've been reading that this coats your teeth and prevents remineralization
Fluoride - apparently speeds up the remineralization process and decreases bacteria's ability to produce acids, ingestion is controversial
Flavorings - to mask the taste of the otherwise terrible chemical concoction that you're slathering on your teeth?
The only ingredient that sounds beneficial is fluoride, but isn't primal. I've also read that the mechanical action of brushing is what cleans your teeth for the most part.
Dependence on Chemicals
Another thing that has been on my mind is that throughout my primal journey, I have gradually decreased the number of things that I put on my body (things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deoderant, lotion, chapstick, etc.) and I am starting to think that being dependent on nothing would be great. Did Grok really do enough throughout the day to wear down his finger and toenails? It's hard to imagine.
Well that was a lot to say, but I had been keeping it locked away in my mind for quite some time. I'm curious to hear what you think and feel free to share your experiences.