Saturday, March 28, 2009

Preventing Tooth Decay

Meet Sir Edward Mellanby, the man who discovered vitamin D. Along with his wife, Dr. May Mellanby, he identified dietary factors that control the formation and repair of teeth and bones. He also identified the primary cause of rickets (vitamin D deficiency) and the effect of phytic acid on mineral absorption. Truly a great man! This research began in the 1910s and continued through the 1940s.

What he discovered about tooth and bone formation is profound, disarmingly simple, and largely forgotten. I remember going to the dentist as a child. He told me I had good teeth. I informed him that I tried to eat well and stay away from sweets. He explained to me that I had good teeth because of genetics, not my diet. I was skeptical at the time, and rightly so.

Tooth structure is primarily determined during growth. Well-formed teeth are highly resistant to decay, while poorly-formed teeth are cavity-prone. Drs. Mellanby demonstrated this by showing a strong correlation between tooth enamel defects and cavities in British children. The following graph is drawn from several studies he compiled in the book Nutrition and Disease (1934). "Hypoplastic" refers to enamel that's poorly formed on a microscopic level.
The graph is confusing, so don't worry if you're having a hard time interpreting it. If you look at the blue bar representing children with well-formed teeth, you can see that 77% of them have no cavities, and only 7.5% have severe cavities (a "3" on the X axis). Looking at the green bar, only 6% of children with the worst enamel structure are without cavities, while 74% have severe cavities. Enamel structure is VERY strongly related to cavity prevalence.

What determines enamel structure during growth? Drs. Mellanby identified three dominant factors:
  1. The mineral content of the diet
  2. The fat-soluble vitamin content of the diet, chiefly vitamin D
  3. The availability of minerals for absorption, determined largely by the diet's phytic acid content
Teeth and bones are a mineralized protein scaffold. Vitamin D influences the quality of the protein scaffold that's laid down, and the handling of the elements that mineralize it. For the scaffold to mineralize, the diet has to contain enough minerals, primarily calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D allows the digestive system to absorb the minerals, but it can only absorb them if they aren't bound by phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found primarily in unfermented seeds such as grains. So the process depends on getting minerals (sufficient minerals in the diet and low phytic acid) and putting them in the right place (fat-soluble vitamins).

Optimal tooth and bone formation occurs only on a diet that is sufficient in minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, and low in phytic acid
. Drs. Mellanby used dogs in their experiments, which it turns out are a good model for tooth formation in humans for a reason I'll explain later. From Nutrition and Disease:
Thus, if growing puppies are given a limited amount of separated [skim] milk together with cereals, lean meat, orange juice, and yeast (i.e., a diet containing sufficient energy value and also sufficient proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins B and C, and salts), defectively formed teeth will result. If some rich source of vitamin D be added, such as cod-liver oil or egg-yolk, the structure of the teeth will be greatly improved, while the addition of oils such as olive... leaves the teeth as badly formed as when the basal diet only is given... If, when the vitamin D intake is deficient, the cereal part of the diet is increased, or if wheat germ [high in phytic acid] replaces white flour, or, again, if oatmeal [high in phytic acid] is substituted for white flour, then the teeth tend to be worse in structure, but if, under these conditions, the calcium intake is increased, then calcification [the deposition of calcium in the teeth] is improved.
Other researchers initially disputed the Mellanbys' results because they weren't able to replicate the findings in rats. It turns out, rats produce the phytic acid-degrading enzyme phytase in their small intestine, so they can extract minerals from unfermented grains better than dogs. Humans also produce phytase, but at levels so low they don't significantly degrade phytic acid. The small intestine of rats has about 30 times the phytase activity of the human small intestine, again demonstrating that humans are not well adapted to eating grains. Our ability to extract minerals from seeds is comparable to that of dogs, which shows that the Mellanbys' results are more applicable to humans than those in rats.

Drs. Mellanby found that the same three factors determine bone quality in dogs as well, which I may discuss in another post.

Is there anything someone with fully formed enamel can do to prevent tooth decay? Drs. Mellanby showed (in humans this time) that not only can tooth decay be prevented by a good diet, it can be almost completely reversed even if it's already present. Dr. Weston Price used a similar method to reverse tooth decay as well. I'll discuss that in my next post.


Anonymous said...

I actually found this myself. Before paleo I had bleeding gums and sore teeth. Now that I have been on it I have not had them and my flatmate just commented how white my teeth are looking. So I think there is something in this.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

I've been meaning to bring this up, and this post provides an excellent opportunity to do so. Last October I discovered Price's work and read about how a 1/2 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil and 1/2 teaspoon of butter oil (from cows eating quick-growing grass) daily helped arrest and reverse cavities and sped up the recovery of injured bones. Starting last November, I began taking 1/2 teaspoon of each. This was accompanied by many other changes: 1) switching from whole-wheat bread (which I consumed regularly) to sprouted-grain bread (of which I eat no more than one slice a day); 2) switching from canola oil to Mary's oil blend (from Eat Fat, Lose Fat -- it is one part each of olive oil, coconut oil, and sesame seed oil) as well as saving bacon fat and ghee for all my cooking; 3) switching from breakfast cereals to eggs as my morning breakfast; 4) switching from 2% milk to whole, raw milk; 5) eating yogurt and drinking kefir daily; 6) eating raw-milk cheese daily (there are probably other changes, but I think I covered most of the relevant ones).

My health and well-being have greatly improved--not that I was overweight to begin with (5'11" and 145 lbs), but I have more energy and a quieter gut than ever before.

BUT, there has been one noticeable negative change: My teeth--particularly my front teeth--stain much more easily. I even had a cleaning at the end of January taking the stain off, but it's already back. I have a hypothesis about this: The increased ability to absorb minerals to mineralize my bone and tooth enamel has also allowed my tooth enamel to more readily pick up staining elements. I drink coffee daily and red wine just about daily. Is it possible that my teeth are staining quickly from these sources? I could do an experiment and withhold these two drinks after my next cleaning--but I love coffee and wine too much and don't mind the benign staining enough to do so.

So perhaps my quickly-staining teeth are a marker of increased capacity for my bones and teeth to mineralize.


Stan Bleszynski said...

I have similar experience, my teeth stopped decaying and some breakage (broken tooth due to mechanical damage, 5 years ago) begun sealing itself with new enamel on my high animal fat, low carb diet of the last 10 years. I still have all my teeth including wisdom teeth. My teeth no longer develop plaque/scale and thus no need to descale, and I no longer develop cold sores on my gums. I haven't been to a dentist since 1999 (I am 53).

I can only speculate what has caused the change but am not 100% sure. I think it was higher D3 and K2 contents but it could have been other factors as well. My diet is not only high in animal saturated and monounsaturated fat (~120-200g/day) but also high in organ meat and cholesterol, my carbohydrates (typ 20-50g a day) come from vegetables, potatoes, rice and chocolate. Very little fruit and almost no flour (no bread).

Scott W said...

Great post as usual. I have raised this question before and maybe you'll be able to shed some light on it in one of your upcoming posts - what is all this about phosphorus? Price discusses its importance and now you've mentioned it. You just don't hear about it like you do calcium and magnesium, and I'm not even sure you can find it in supplement form (if you needed to supplement). How much and in what form?

Thanks. I'll be looking up this book to buy to complement Price's.

Scott W

Scott W said...

Well...maybe I won't get the book. $85 on Amazon from a seller in the UK. And too bad my library doesn't have it.

I like the discussion of tooth staining. I guess I didn't really think about the fact that teeth are mineralized through absorption from saliva until I read Price's book. It would seem to make sense that stains could penetrate at the same time as minerals.

Scott W

Richard Nikoley said...


This is timely for a reason only peripherally related to your post.

Vitamin D supplementation in dogs. Are you aware of any guidelines out there, and, ought dogs have blood levels of D similar to that of humans, i.e., 60-80 ng/ml?

I have 2 that weigh about 15 pounds each (rat terriers). There's a bit of D3 in the Evo (low carb, grain / rice free) I give them, and they each get a dollop of lard in their food every morning. One 14-oz can of the wet food (95% animal in various flavors, like rabbit, duck, venison) lasts the two of them about 3 days, and I typically put one drop of Carlson D in it (1,000 IU) and one drop of the Thorne K2. Each Monday morning, they also get one 1 g Carlson CLO gel cap split between them and a few drops of salmon oil for dogs.

Results have been amazing for the 11-yr-old male. He is leaner and more active than when he was 6. People can't believe he's 11.

Anyway, my main interest is to find some info on making sure their D levels are optimal.

Unknown said...

Aaron wrote:
there has been one noticeable negative change: My teeth--particularly my front teeth--stain much more easily. I even had a cleaning at the end of January taking the stain off, but it's already back. I have a hypothesis about this: The increased ability to absorb minerals to mineralize my bone and tooth enamel has also allowed my tooth enamel to more readily pick up staining elements. I drink coffee daily and red wine just about daily. Is it possible that my teeth are staining quickly from these sources? I could do an experiment and withhold these two drinks after my next cleaning--but I love coffee and wine too much and don't mind the benign staining enough to do so.

So perhaps my quickly-staining teeth are a marker of increased capacity for my bones and teeth to mineralize.


Perhaps the higher carb diet was coating your teeth with a thin layer of plaque...enough to insulate them from stains?

StephenB said...

I thought that olive oil was one of the good oils? I'd be interested in hearing thoughts on why it might have been bad for tooth health in dogs.


Aaron Blaisdell said...

@ B. That's an interesting possibility that hadn't occurred to me.

Monica said...


Interesting. I did a quick google search on vitamin D in dogs and did not come up with much. They can make their own vitamin C, so I was curious. Apparently they cannot make their own D3 and would have gotten it from their prey. I, too, would be very interested to hear opinions from those knowledgable about carnivore physiology -- not just dogs but cats. Can we get vet David at Hyperlipid over here contributing to this?

Richard, I've noticed dramatic benefits in my dog's health on a raw meat diet. Clean teeth, breath, remarkable agility from just a year ago when I rescued her. I try to do prey model and feed "frankenprey." In other words, organs of as much variety as I can find with a variety of cuts of different animals, approximating 10% bone, 10% organ, 80% muscle meat. My suspicion is that this is sufficient nutritionally since meat is what dogs would have eaten even until recently (i.e. 60 or so years ago when dog food came on the market). My best guess is also that dogs are much less adapted to cooked food than we are, only having possibly had it for the past 10k years or so, but I don't have any hard evidence that it's bad for them. As for vitamin D, I question how much dog would make through photosynthesis. Should food not be sufficient? How much sunlight could honestly get through all that fur? Wouldn't requirements be limited by a meat diet as they are in humans? (To my recollection, a grain-based diet will cause you to burn through your D stores faster. Is it the same in dogs?)

OTOH, my dog gets conventionally farmed meats, not wild animals that may differ nutritionally. Perhaps even wild prey has way more vitamin D than animals raised in confinement. And perhaps because of the omega issues I should add fish oil to my dog's diet. Wild prey would be much more balanced in this regard.

Thanks for re-stimulating my thinking on this, Richard. I look forward to hearing what others have to say. (Hope, Stephan, you don't mind your blog being taken over by pet health issues...heh)

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Stephan, that's a real gem, thanks for sharing. It's amazing how this information has been around for so long but has largely been ignored and/or forgotten!

arnoud said...

Thank you for the marvelous explanation and insights!

For years my dentist has been insisting on more frequent and more aggressive cleaning techniques.... to no avail.
Last year I started Vitamin D supplementation, and a more Paleo style of diet, and the 'chronic' inflammation of my gums resolved themselves within days, literally.

My dentist claims it is a coincidence. I think not!


homertobias said...

Animals synthesize vitamin D in their fur. They then lick their fur and absorb the D. Let your animals outside or let them lie in the sun. Don't wash them too often.

Monica said...

homertobias, I have to admit that vitamin D synthesis in fur sounds completely wacky! However, in googling for this I turned up this article:

and in the introduction is this statement:

"Hazewinkel et al. (1987)Citation demonstrated that vitamin D synthesis was defective in dogs that had their backs shaved when exposed to UV light, and these dogs developed clinical signs of vitamin D deficiency. "

!! Fascinating. I never would have guessed this. However, the pub seems to indicate that cats have to get vitamin D in their diet.

Stephan Guyenet said...


That's great, now we need to spread the word to everyone else!


I love success stories! I really don't know what to make about your teeth staining. Would you mind if I post part of your comment in a future post?


Cool. Would you mind if I put your comment in a future post?


Yeah that pricetag stopped me in my tracks last week. Apparently it's out of print. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. Most of it is in bones and teeth (where it's required for proper mineralization) but it plays an essential role in every cell. That's about all I know at this point.


I don't know what the optimal D level is for dogs. They can probably make D from sunlight in their fur like many mammals (and get it by licking themselves).


Olive oil wasn't bad for the dogs, it just didn't contain vitamin D. The diet with olive oil wasn't any worse than the diet without it, but both were worse than the diet with cod liver oil (contains D). If he had fed the dogs CLO plus olive oil, they probably would have had fine teeth.


Your dogs probably get most of their D from licking their fur, like other hairy mammals. Most D3 supplements come from sheep lanolin, the oil that comes off wool when it's washed.


Another success story, awesome! May I include it in a future post?

Monica said...

"Most D3 supplements come from sheep lanolin, the oil that comes off wool when it's washed."

No kidding. You learn something new every day!

I have a TON of cavities in my molars that were all filled when I was about 12. I'm guessing that this was a particularly bad time nutritionally in my life. I had a pretty wicked toothache last year, too, at age 33. I have only had 1-2 cavities filled between age 12 and age 30. I do not have X rays from this time period last year so I honestly don't know what was going on but I was about to make a dentist appt. when I decided I was just going to try part of Price's formula. I was already getting grass-fed raw dairy at the time so I figured that would work for "activator X", and his X rays of healed teeth were pretty convincing. A few months after starting to supplement with cod liver oil last year, I was fine. The toothache hasn't come back. This was last spring so I think the recovery coincided with me spending more time in sunlight (at high altitude).

I also notice I have much less "hair" on my teeth (that's what I call that nasty scummy feeling) on the low carb diet I've been on for about a year.

Despite this progress, I recently had my vitamin D levels tested and they were only 30ng/ml after supplementing with 2 t. cod liver oil for a year!!! However, maybe it was enough to bring me up to some minimum level to start my tooth healing and my levels were reeeeeeaally low before. (I spent most of the past 10 years in upstate NY and the past 2 years in Colorado living at high altitude. Despite that, still relatively low levels of D. So I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that my levels were somewhere down around 10. That would make some sense having supplemented with roughly 2000IU daily for a year).

Stephan, do you have thoughts on D3 and K2 supplementation for reversing periodontal disease? I understand this is a somewhat different process, but do you think it could work? It seems so. I have a friend who has this problem and I gave him Price's book so he could see for himself that it at least works for cavities. I urged him to get his hands on some good quality supplements, couldn't hurt.

Nick said...

I am new to Whole Health Source (via the wonderful Jenny Ruhl at Blood Sugar 101) and just love your Blog, Stephan.

After reading the comments about cod liver oil I wonder if you might comment about The Vitamin D Council warning about using cod liver oil as a supplement as it may cause harmful amounts of vitamin A and have negative effects on how we metabolize vitamin D.

I so wish I could have read this information prior to my beloved Whestie's death!


Anna said...

Great post & comments. It's the last full day of our London visit; maybe I can switch gears a little and track down one of those books. Wouldn't that be great?

Lately I have been coming across references to sebum (skin oils) being important in the human skin's production of Vitamin D3. I already learned some time ago about the ingestion of D when animals groom their fur and feathers, so this makes sense.

Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council suggests not washing too soon after sun exposure, to allow absorption of the Vit D from the sebum into the skin (it might also make sense to not be freshly washed prior to sun exposure, too). That would also fit with the information that Vitamin D production is reduced with age - sebum production is reduced, too. It also brings up a thought about Vit D during outdoor swimming - the sebum would be largely washed away instead of absorbed.

Unknown said...

According to Melvin Page (a dentist like Price who studied effects of diet on health) the calcium-phosporus-ratio is quite important for (dental) health. The optimal level is 10 mg/dl calcium and 4 mg/dl phosphorus.
I read one of his books ("your body is your best doctor). It´s a good read.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

@ Stephen,

Sure, you may share details of my comments in future posts.

I'm also curious about what are the food-sources of phosphorous. As you and others have pointed out, Price mentioned it in his book repeatedly, but I can't find references to the food source.

Btw, I just made for the first time the beef/lamb stock from Nourishing Traditions and it tastes fantastic! I bet there are a lot of minerals in it. I used marrow bones from pastured cows, too which I purchased at the Culver City farmer's market.

homertobias said...

Anna, Most of human vitamin D production is through conversion of 7 dihydrocholesterol in the skin and subcutaneous fat exposed to UVB radiation from the sun. As far as I know we do not make it in sebum or hair follicles but our ape ancestors must have.
Besides we have all but lost the habit of self grooming with our mouths.
We are unable to get adequate vitamin D from the sun because of ozone, smog, lack of adequate daily exposure and a host of other factors you already know about. But think of this. As we age, we lose our subcutaneous fat. Think of the transparent blue veins so close to the surface in the 75 year old woman's hands. No 7 dihydrocholesterol there, therefore no ability to make vitamin D. Look at Stephan's last post on skin texture. So what gives skin its nice texture? Some of it is subcutaneous fat.
All very interesting...

homertobias said...

Just a little info on D supplementation in cats. Peter (Hyperlipid) doesn't know and he is a vet. Apparently you can't get cat Vitamin D levels in England. He calls supplementing a "nightmare" because it is very easy to get hypercalcemia. You know how male cats can get struvate and more recently calcium oxylate kidney stones. Perhaps it is best just to feed them well.

donny said...

In this study here, kittens didn't produce enough of their own vitamin d when exposed to ultraviolet light.
When they were given a 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase inhibitor, to increase 7-dehydrocholesterol in their systems, their production of vitamin d became sufficient to avoid rickets.
The punchline here is that the study included a table comparing 7-dehydrocholesterol levels in mice, rats and other small rodents to its' levels in larger animals like cows and sheep, and the levels are through the roof. So fully-formed vitamin d might not be what is missing from most cats' traditional diets.
I don't think rats and mice were included in many traditional human diets. But what about rabbits, squirrel, shellfish, shrimp, etc.? Maybe the need for vitamin d supplementation comes more from the gathering of small animal food sources than from the hunting side of our heritage.

Oh yeah. The study;

Jenny Light said...


I first came upon your blog about a month ago, and have read through all of your very insightful posts. I knew it was only a matter of time before I chimed in!

Some time ago, I found a book at a garage sale titled: "The Miracles of Live Juices and Raw Foods" by John H Tobe. It was published in Canada in 1977. I don't juice, but I always pick up vintage books on nutrition when I see them cheap.

Tobe refers to a study conducted by Pauline Beery Mack of the Ellen H Richards Institute at Pennsylvania State College in the late 1930's. Apparently 2,511 Pennsylvania children and adults were surveyed over six years and only 2 people were completely free of nutritional deficiencies, and only eight were free of tooth decay.

"The bones of a large majority, both adults and children, were not satisfactorily mineralized..."

Tobe goes on to say that after a bit of detective work he was able to learn some information about the two people who were totally free of deficiencies:

"Two brothers age 10 and 12 were selected as a part of a routine sampling of representative school children in their city. Both boys had the highest degree of maturity and mineral density of the skeleton found for boys of their respective ages in the study. They had teeth which were perfect in shape and without any carious lesions. Their medical examinations showed that they were both superior in skin texture, musculature, muscle tone, skeletal build, and all other observable evidence of good physical well-being. Lawrence and James were tested again at the ages of 16 and 14 years, respectively, and were found to have maintained their excellent nutrition records".

Here is the interesting part! The parents (who had poor teeth and minor ailments) sought the professional advice of a dentist by the name of Fred D Miller before getting pregnant. He advised a diet of "natural and unrefined foods in their own dietary, and placed the children when they were born on a rigorous dietary regimen". The diet of the boys was as follows: "Besides milk, they received orange juice and cod liver oil from birth. At two months they began to receive the juice of raw vegetables - beet greens, turnip tops, carrots, and green celery, chiefly. They started with one teaspoon daily, and worked up to a daily cup of this mixed juice by the time they were five months old. This continued until they were old enough to eat raw vegetables"

The details about the boys were published in the July 1944 issue of "The Chemistry Leaflet", apparently without Dr Beery Mack's consent, and she refused Tobe's request for an exact copy of her report.

Just another interesting vitamin D story! Stephen, maybe you have access to old copies the "Chemistry Leaflet"? I wonder where her original papers are today?

Jenny Light said...

Aaron Blaisdell:

Bone broth is definately a great source of phosphorus. I found a great little treatise on bone broth online at the Townsend Letter website here:

I just printed this article for my files and it is 21 pages long!

Bone broth should be a part of everyone's daily diet! Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" contains the best recipe!

Jenny Light said...

Sorry, my Townsend Letter bone broth link did not print out properly. It is:

Robert Andrew Brown said...

Aaron Blaisdell.

What toothpaste are you using? I recently changed to one with an enamel protective additive and staining increased.

Jenny Light

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory conditions. Balancing the Omega 3 and 6 plant fats and getting adequate long chain Omega 3 should help. Trials suggest that to be the case.

Aaron Blaisdell said...


Thanks for the link!

Robert Andrew Brown

For the past 6-8 months I've been using Tom's of Maine toothpaste.

Jenny Light said...


"A few months after starting to supplement with cod liver oil last year, I was fine. The toothache hasn't come back".

It is possible that the nerve in that tooth is now dead. I too had a severe toothache (8-9 years ago before I knew anything about proper healthy eating), and could not get in to see my dentist right away. A couple of weeks later, the toothache disapeared. The dentist ended up telling me that the cavity in that tooth was rather deep, and that the pain went away because the nerve was probably dead.

Just a thought......

Stephan Guyenet said...


I'm pretty convinced a good diet can improve periodontal disease. Several people have commented that their gums have improved with diet changes, including Richard Nikoley. Mellanby also researched the influence of nutrition on peri disease and found that vitamin A during development was highly protective because of the way the epithelium developed.


I did respond to the vitamin D council's anti-cod liver oil stance here.


Phosphorus is rich in bone broths and other animal foods.


Very interesting! Dairy fat and cod liver oil is a magical combination, as Price emphasized. Sadly, I don't have access to that publication.

Robert Andrew Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Andrew Brown said...

Jenny Light

"The dentist ended up telling me that the cavity in that tooth was rather deep, and that the pain went away because the nerve was probably dead."

I had to check if your post is on April Fools' Day. But it wasn't which is rather a concern.

Dead tooth ??

*!!** *--**!!!!!


Please excuse the shout but I speak from bitter experience. I am flabbergasted your dentist did not check to see if the tooth nerve was still alive.

There is a very high risk that body will be unable to clear the nerve tissue and any infection if it is dead, and you will develop an abscess.

For some an abscess is so painful that knowledge of its existence is unavoidable. But some abscesses are asymptomatic and you may not know about their existence for years.

There are symptoms like a temporary loosening of the tooth, gum problems depending on your health status, bad taste in the mouth and on the back of the throat, metallic tasting discharges at night, and minor occasional pain in the sinus.

If the abscess finds a discharge point it is less likely that it will be painful. However if that discharges into the sinus and nasal system you could end up with minor infections of all the sinuses including those that extends over the forehead and further back.

Inflammation and infection in the cranial area can lead at best to not feeling on top of the world, and at worse neurological conditions. I saw a suggestion on the web that up to 10% of your neurological conditions are related to dental and jaw infections of some sort.

A dental abscess if left untreated can become a larger abscess in the jaw which will require surgery. Because of the nature of bone structure x-rays will not always pick up soft bone or an abscess in the jaw.

I had a capped tooth and the nerve subsequently died, the tooth loosened slightly for a couple of weeks. Some years later after experiencing a significant portion of the items detailed above and after root filling I found I had an abscess the size of a large male thumbnail in my upper jaw.

I went to the dentist because of constant skin problems on the nose and forehead, dicharges etc and seeing a post on the web pointing out how close the sinuses were to roots of the teeth in the upper jaw. I wondered if I could have an abscess above a tooth that had been capped. It turned out that I did. I had previously raised these issues in a general way.

It took almost a year after I first asked a dentist and the abscess was identified and root filled (copious puss) before it was identified that I had a large jaw abscess as well . The large jaw abscess was identified because I had a lump the size of a small gobstopper appear above the tooth. Prior to that my exhortations that there was a problem failed to yield an explanation.

So I suggest that if you have an unexpected loose tooth, gum problems, bad tasting discharges at night etc clearly and precisely explain the problem to the dentist and insist they check for dead teeth. Unevidenced assurances of the Monty Python Norwegian blue genre are probably best not accepted.

Please make sure that none of the teeth that have been filled have QUIETLY expired without letting you know. I promise you it is preferable to the alternative (-:

Jenny Light said...

Robert Andrew Brown:

Thank you for letting me know about your your worrisome tooth episode!

I have never had any further problem with that tooth, or any of the symptoms that you mention. The dentist just filled it (mercury amalgam which I know now never to get is the only one I have in my mouth)as it was a standard cavity and in no way bad enough to require a root canal (something I refuse to have done anyway).

I have a differnt dentist now, and will be seeing him the end of this month for my 6 month visit. I will question him about this (just to be on the safe side), so thanks for the heads up!

Nick said...

Stephan, thank you for posting the link to your Vitamin A post!

Robert Andrew Brown said...


It is a pleasure. If through my experiences I can save somebody else walking the same path it is truly worthwhile.

The reason why it is so important to find out if a tooth is alive or dead is that if your immune system is healthy you may have no idea your tooth was died for some considerable while (years). During this time it will be starting to fester. I suspect the subtle symptoms I described will as a general rule take a long time to develop. They certainly did in my case.

These abscesses can truly be without obviously connectible symptoms for considerable period of time.

One would not obviously connect skin problems on the nose and scalp and an abscess in the jaw. I suspect the generality is doctors are not going to consider if you have a jaw / tooth abscess, even if you give them information that may point to the existence of one but instead give you steroid cream and antifungal shampoos.

Steroid creams and antifungal shampoo is in my case would have addressed the symptoms but not the cause.

I find, what I suspect must be a medical paradigms, that bits of the body are not very connected up rather puzzling.

From the amount I have been able to find on the web the sinus spaces are quite extensive even reaching down to the base of the brain, so maybe if you have regular discharges of puss into the sinus spaces, which then make their way into sleep into the cranial cavities you could see manifestations of infection in the skin of the scalp, and possibly even as far as the spine.

My experience suggests to me that there should be a far greater awareness of the potential downsides of infections in the upper jaw.

Thank you for your response.

Anonymous said...

Could tooth decay also be caused by inadequate protein intake, causing the body to cannibalize protein from the bones and teeth?

Stan Bleszynski said...

Stephan wrote: Stan,
Cool. Would you mind if I put your comment in a future post?

Sure Stephan, go ahead, I am always glad to help!

Testimonials are secondary substitute for research but they may be important in this situation when we cannot fully rely on the mainstream research. Like in that example posted by someone here, where none of the mainstream medical academics bothered to checked that dental self-healing effect by vit D, since the 1924 publication. Makes me wonder why?

One reason I often peek into vegan fora is to read their health testimonials. First thing that always strikes me is (#1) large number of poor dental health reports often in spite of flossing like crazy after every meal, and (#2) reports of osteoporosis. That would seem to confirm Peter's opinion that most plants (vegetables, fruits and nuts) are basically mild poisons, that may be somehow tolerated by us and may occasionally save us from starvation if there is nothing else to eat, but not something that we can really thrive on, long term. Radical? Perhaps...

Nickle said...

Re: staining… I noticed the same thing! After adopting the kind of diet advocated by this blog a year or so ago I noticed that my teeth were becoming horribly stained. Not that I do myself any favours drinking way too much coffee and smoking (will work on that vice soon!). This was the only downside from the many benefits. About 6 months ago I tried to do something about it. Firstly, I decided that filling my mouth with chemicals and abrading my teeth 2 or 3 times a day wasn’t very natural so looked for alternatives. I started using ‘dentie toothpaste’ (by Clearspring – google it) which is made from burnt eggplant, salt, kaolin, seaweed-cellulose, glycerine and peppermint essence – rather ‘disturbing’ as a toothpaste as it is black! I can’t say I noticed a lot of difference but I felt better not using the chemical-cocktail of regular toothpaste. I then came across the ‘ionic’ toothbrush ( Although sceptical I do think it is good. However, even with this combination my teeth staining persisted. About three months ago I made a change that would seem rather bizarre – I stopped regularly brushing my teeth; only brushing them when I felt they needed it (maybe only once or twice a week) and then only brushing with the ionic toothbrush alone (no toothpaste). I do regularly use toothpicks and/or floss – you have to if you eat a lot of meat! The staining has completely gone (even on the back of the teeth) and they are now whiter than they’ve ever been. The only other noticeable change that was made about the same time was that I became addicted to fermented cream (a mainstay of Peter on Hyperlipid). Take your pick as to which has done the job and why!

Stephan Guyenet said...


That's very interesting. Out of curiosity, how much starch and sugar do you eat?

Stephan Guyenet said...


Just realized I overlooked your comment. I don't know the answer to your question, sorry.

Nickle said...

I eat very little in the way of starches and sugars; carbohydrates in total are probably only in the region of 20-30g per day at most.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be the fermented cream… Having lived in Kenya you learn quickly to adjust your sunglasses before exchanging pleasantries with a passing Masai – their teeth are always blindingly brilliant-white and of course fermented milk/cream is one of their staples. Maybe it’s the acidity or the bacteria? It’s is certainly cloying and lingering in the mouth. However, I am somewhat weary about toothpaste; have a good look at the ingredients – frightening! I somehow think that the best ‘cleaning’ substance to use on teeth is your own healthy saliva. It usually takes 2-3 days before the squeaky-clean feel of running my tongue around my teeth is dulled and usually 3-4 days before any plaque build-up is noticed. I suppose on average I brush my teeth (without toothpaste) once every 4 days.

Whichever it is the change has been impressive -- the staining on the back of my teeth was quite disgusting (almost black) but it has all gone, and, although somewhat subjective I’m sure that they’ve got whiter. Also I’ve not experienced a twinge out of them; no tooth-ache, and absolutely no sensitivity which has always been a problem – these improvements were noted within months of changing my diet a year or so ago and predate the cream consumption/lack of toothpaste.

Aaron Blaisdell said...


I'm not sure I can give up brushing my teeth. My wife would probably decide to sleep in another room. At least I use Tom's of Maine that has a more benign list of ingredients. I do floss every night and rinse with Listerine (I know, I know!). But since I drink raw milk and kefir on a regular basis, I'd be delighted to give the fermented cream a try. Thanks for the tip!

arnoud said...

Today I was shocked reading a post about child emergency dental care escalating out of control:

Unfortunately, it does not look like the dental community is considering dietary issues as a possible root cause.

Iris said...

Not having read all the comments, so maybe it has been said before:

this book explains a lot, also about phosphorus and what you can eat to get it:

I am just reading it, I came across it because of my DD2's tooth decay

Stephan Guyenet said...


I poked around that website a while back. The book looks solid.

Iris said...

What do you mean by solid? Sorry, english is not my mother tongue...

Stephan Guyenet said...


'Solid' is slang for 'good'!

Dr. David Cheng said...

Nice article. There are many factors involved in tooth decay: tooth structure, diet, dental hygiene and bacterial content in the oral cavity. As a children dentist, I see a lot of cavities due to poor diet. However, I have never looked at it from the point of view of tooth structure.

Anonymous said...

Just been back to the dentist and had a temporary fix for a broken tooth made permanent. No other work needed and even the cleaning took a fraction of the usual time.

Especially during childhood I was always accused of eating "too much sugar" which I didn't - it was the starch.

IME not eating the starch is #1 improvement, more D3 and K2 from the yummy sat fats is probably #2.

Improvement #3 is a weird one though, I was getting brown/black discolouration which was hard to scrape off.

"Is it the nicotine, red wine, dark chocolate or coffee?" I asked.

He took a good look.

"Do you use mouthwash? Is it corsodyl(chlorhexidine)?"


"That'll be it!" - and so it proved, no mouthwash, much less cleaning. This year's work was almost enjoyable!

I wish I knew this 50 years ago.

More useful stuff

Dr. David Cheng said...

Great article on the effect of diet and tooth formation on the incidence of dental cavities. I see this in my patients. Those who have defective or weaker enamel during development get much more cavities.
Dentist Vaughan

Logan said...

So you keep mentioning oats as being high in phytic acid, but wasn't the Scottish population that Price studied reliant on oats?