How to Reverse Tooth Decay and Avoid Braces

teeth How to Reverse Tooth Decay and Avoid Braces

Do you and your kids brush and floss regularly and limit sugar and still get cavities?

Have any of your kids needed to have braces?

Has your child under 6 had signs of tooth decay?

Ever wish you could reverse those things?

If you are like me, you were raised with the notion (likely told by your dentist) that sugar and bad genes cause tooth decay and that if you were getting tooth decay as a child, you needed to cut back on sugar. You likely also believe that genetics determine tooth spacing and that your genetics might have doomed you to braces…

I believed all that stuff too… but as it turns out, there is more to the story!

Enter Sir (Dr) Edward Mellanby (he discovered Vitamin D) and his lovely wife Dr. May Mellanby. These two contributed much research in the areas of bone and tooth health and mineral absorption. In fact, it was Edward who discovered that Vitamin D deficiency caused rickets. They also discovered that tooth structure is determined during a child’s growth, and that poorly formed teeth are more likely to decay (pretty logical).

Also enter Dr. Weston A Price, a dentist who traveled and studied isolated populations around the world and their native diets. Dr. Price was surprised to discover that many of these native peoples eating a diet devoid of modern foods had perfect teeth structure and little tooth decay. Their teeth were well spaced with plenty of room, and were white and healthy. Lest we think this is just genetics, Dr. Price studied people all over the world with widely different genes and found this same common factor. (An interesting note: when these people are removed from their native environment and switch to a western diet, they get tooth decay, bone loss and other health problems at the same rate as people in western industrialized countries)

These doctors all reached the same conclusion after years of research, mainly that tooth structure and health is largely determined by diet, especially three main factors:

  1. The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
  2. The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
  3. How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet.

What is Phytic Acid?

Phytic acid is a molecule of phosphorus tightly bound with other molecules to form a type of phosphorus that is not easily absorbed by humans. From the Weston A. Price Foundation:

Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.

Phytic acid is found in grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and in much smaller amounts in some fruits and vegetables. The body naturally converts phytic acid into phytates, which are un-absorbable and take calcium from the body. Those who consume high amounts of phytic acid will lose calcium and absorb other minerals at lower rates.

Modern growing practices, including the use of high phosphorus fertilizer, mean a higher phytic acid content in many foods. Seeds, nuts, bran, oatmeal, and soybeans are especially high in phytic acid, and these foods are present in abundance in modern diet.

Check out this article about phytic acid for a comprehensive list of phytic acid content in foods.

Phytic Acid’s Effect on Bone and Tooth Health

People who consume large amounts of phytic acid (most Americans) in the form of grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes have higher rates of tooth decay, mineral deficiencies and osteoporosis.

Over the long term, when the diet lacks minerals or contains high levels of phytates or both, the metabolism goes down, and the body goes into mineral-starvation mode. The body then sets itself up to use as little of these minerals as possible. Adults may get by for decades on a high-phytate diet, but growing children run into severe problems. In a phytate-rich diet, their bodies will suffer from the lack of calcium and phosphorus with poor bone growth, short stature, rickets, narrow jaws and tooth decay; and for the lack of zinc and iron with anemia and mental retardation.

Just as lack of Vitamin D and poor calcium absorption can cause malformation of the bones of the legs (as in the case of Rickets), it can cause the jawbone to form poorly, resulting in spacing problems for the teeth and braces for the child.

Sadly, the most commonly eaten diet in America these days is high in grains, sugars, and vegetable oils, and low in animal fats and fat soluble vitamins- the exact opposite of what the Drs. Mellanby found to be helpful for optimal bone health and the prevention of tooth decay.

The good news is that teeth (and bones) are able to heal themselves in a process called remineralization. Basically, specialized cells in the center of the tooth are able to regenerate dentin, the layer of tooth just under the enamel, and the enamel can then properly remineralize from the outside. This same process happens in bones when phytic acid is removed from the diet and minerals/fat soluble vitamins are added.

To prove this theory, the Drs. Mellanby did a study on children with existing cavities. The children were put into three groups:

  • Group One: Regular diet plus oatmeal (which is high in phytic acid)
  • Group Two: Regular diet plus vitamin D
  • Group Three: Diet low in phytic acid plus vitamin D.

This is what they found:

phytic acid causes cavities How to Reverse Tooth Decay and Avoid Braces

The group consuming phytic acid with no supplemental vitamin D continued to get cavities with little to no healing. The group that just supplemented Vitamin D showed some healing, but also got some new cavities. The group consuming no phytic acid and supplementing Vitamin D showed very few new cavities and actually had many existing cavities heal! (Good reason to cut back on the grains, eat good fats, and optimize Vitamin D!)

This article at Whole Health Source explains more.

How to Prevent and Reverse Tooth Decay and Avoid Braces

To recap, the things that Drs. Mellanby and Dr. Price found to prevent and reverse tooth and bone problems are:

  1. The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
  2. The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
  3. How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet.

What does this mean practically in the diet? It is not possible or necessary to eliminate Phytic acid from the diet. What should be considered is taking care to minimize the foods that contain the highest amounts. Some preparations like soaking and fermenting can reduce the phytic acid content and should be practiced if the foods are going to be consumed, but in many cases, it is better to avoid these foods completely.

Nuts, for instance, have a high phytic acid content which can be greatly reduced by soaking the nuts in salt or lemon water overnight and then rinsing and dehydrating in the oven (the same can be done with beans). While this step is time consuming, it is feasible with things like nuts or beans, but much more intensive with wheat (which contains more phytic acid!) Grains especially are better soaked, sprouted and fermented,  if consumed at all, but this process does not completely eliminate the other harmful properties of grains.

Phytic Acid in common foods How to Reverse Tooth Decay and Avoid Braces

You might notice that meats, eggs, vegetables, and healthy fats are not on this list of high phytic acid foods. As I’ve mentioned before, these foods contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals are are more nutrient dense anyway. If foods high in phytic acid are going to be eaten, check out this article from the Weston A. Price Foundation on how to sprout, ferment, and soak them to make them less harmful.

Especially for the sake of your children, who are developing their tooth and bone structure, consider reducing your consumption of phytic acid containing foods. A diet based on the guidelines suggested by the doctors above will also help achieve optimal weight, improve concentration, and increase energy levels.

There is also a great book called Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition that explains in great detail the connection between phytic acid and tooth/bone health and practical steps to reverse it.

Reader Comments

  1. Ryan says

    I’ve never heard of soaking nuts in lemon water – I’ve always read to soak them in salt water and dehydrate them. That’s what we always do. (And it makes them delicious too!!) Does soaking them in lemon water do the same thing?

    • says

      My understanding is that salt water does do the same thing. I’ve heard of soaking in both acids and bases, but I know many people who soak in salt water or baking soda water also.

  2. says

    Aww.. Thanks for providing the food list, Wellness Mama. Most of them listed are easy to find and eat, anyways. I honestly haven’t thought about Vitamin D as one of the remedies for tooth decay and other teeth problems. At least now I know that kids should eat lots of vitamin D. A healthy diet does help maintain both a sound mind and body.

  3. Gryan says

    maybe why the second group with eating oatmeal had more cavities is because the oats were fermenting in their mouth. It still looks overall like they are primarily healing their teeth. 

    Why would some cavities be forming and others healing. That strikes me as odd. I wonder if it depends on location of cavities (gumline, interproximal, etc). Of course I must trust and reason from the data provided here, hoping its authentic and so. Maybe they had more cavities because the oats were sticking and making plaque and fermenting

    • says

      I’d encourage you to read the book. He explains the biology of why teeth decay and how to reverse it. It isn’t as simple as we were always told… it isn’t just an external process caused by sugar and similar foods on the teeth themselves. I can speak to the efficacy of this method though, as I’ve seen cavities reversed in my own
      family… and most dentists deny that this is even possible.

  4. Gleason says

    Is there a good mineral supplement we should give our children? My daughter is 4 and has 8 cavities.  I was shocked! They get no pop, juice, fruit snacks..etc.  I am now going to get her on Dr. Price’s Blue Ice Royal cod liver oil but any ideas for mineral supplements?

  5. Portis Geraldo says

    Wow!!!!!!! you have posted a very useful and lovely blog. Nowadays many people are switching over to the foods like cereals, oatmeal and so on. The fact is they don’t realize the damage these foods can make to the dental and body health problems.  I have came across some blogs like this one creating an awareness among the people about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet which I think is good.

    • says

      Still exclusively nursing? There are several nutrient related causes, but the fermented cod liver oil can be used at this age and will help. Also, since a baby will lose his teeth and get new teeth, nutritional changes now can help improve the health of adult teeth.

  6. BL says

    Hey there, I looked at your recipes and noticed you said for mixed veggies not to get ones with beans in them. Do green beans have a high phytic acid count? I understand about staying away from other legumes and kidney beans. I noticed that you allow for nuts and nut butters in your snacks options. Are these sprouted nut butters? Since regular nut butters have high phytic acid count. Are there any other veggies or fruits I need to stay away from that have high phytic acid count? Thanks for this post, its very helpful! And for your meal plans!

    • says

      Green beans are fine, especially if you aren’t eating them every day. The nut butters we buy are soaked and sprouted, but if you only eat them occasionally or in moderation, regular nut butters aren’t awful (just avoid peanut, soy, etc and make sure there aren’t any hydrogenated oils!). For the most part, fruits and vegetables all have some phytic acid, but not enough to be a concern. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, do have goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid health though, so if you or some one in your family has thyroid issues, it is wise to limit these and not eat them raw.

      • Lily Hart says

        Would you share the brand name of the nut butter you buy? I am looking for some good soaked/sprouted options. Thanks!

  7. Marian says

    i am just wondering how do you explain populations like the gaelic (sp?) and primitive swiss used grain (properly prepared and they didnt have GAPS) as a staple food? we are considering going grain free since our daughter (first in our whole family) has multiple cavities. she is 3 and we have been weston price for 3 years but we were consuming sprouted flour (woops!).

  8. says

    You do know there is Phytic acid in ALL VEGETABLES, nuts and some fruits right? Also that it is an anti-oxidant? and that it has health benefits as well as deterrants? One wonders if it all evens out. Also there are a bunch of different opinions on this.

  9. says

    I had a quick question. My 5 year old has a small cavity that the dentist said is surface and needs a small filling. I am desperately researching ways to heal the cavity naturally. I have heard a lot about FCLO with butter oil, however, my daughter is anaphylactic to dairy (i have to have an epi-pen at all times) egg and nuts. We haven’t tried any fish on the advice of the allergist. Is there another route that i could take with her that won’t aggravate her allergies?

    • Carrie says

      I just took my 4 year old to 4 dentists who all said she needed from 1-5 baby root canals…I read the cure tooth decay book but we are all vegans and plant based., and that guy is a meat monger…so She has been doing oil pulling with coconut oil for about 3-5 minutes 2-3 times a day, we replaced her daily oatmeal, pastas and breads with sprouted grain breads and pastas and we have cut out all sugar…fruits too (but she actually still snuck some fruit)…but after 8 days the black tooth she had is now a pearl grey color and shiny….the coconut oil is said to be able to enter into the structure of the tooth and kill off the bacteria….

  10. says

    Going to have to check out that book. Do you have a post or article on how to properly prepare beans, nuts/seeds, etc to reduce the phytic acid? The westin price article is overwhelming and does not seem to settle on one or two methods that are best. Thanks!

  11. says

    I enjoyed your article, I have seen first hand how your comments on the
    ability f teeth to hear are true and correct. However your conclusions on meats
    being more nutrient rich than plant sources is completely contrary to every
    credible scientific study. I dont doubt the phytic acid may reduce some ability
    to absorb minerals, however even the slightest bit of meat will supply you with
    far more harmful uric acid. Meats are actually comparatively deficient in most
    vitamins and mineral, contrary to your statement. Sure there are most of them
    present in meat, but the ratio of nutrition to harmful content is barely 10%,
    compared to RAW plant sources that are 80+% !!!
    And the rest is usually fiber that helps sweeps out the intestines harmful
    putridity that meats and white flours are the largest source of. In
    addition meats are purely USED FOOD, full of all the problems the animal
    suffered with in addition to the depleted nutritional value!

    Dr Norman Walker has 70 years of
    research with numerous studies that include healing of bones and teeth with
    pure fruit vegetable juices alone, He even deeply explains with scientific
    analysis revealing every mineral and nutrient in every commonly available
    produce item. His ‘Fresh fruit and vegetable juices’ book even gives you exact
    proportions of what to juice for whatever ails you including healing teeth and bone loss. I have tried them
    personally and made them for others for mentioned conditions and this one in
    particularly with positive effects seen in less than 3 days! He warns of
    many other acids and things found in various foods, even when they are plant
    sources, Never did he warn of phytic acid, nor did it hinder the rapid healing
    effects on the plant sourced juices. Final
    support for my statement is my personal experience.

    I have been a total vegetarian(no
    meats of any kind at all including seafood) for 27 years, my diet does include
    grains and minimal dairy products. I avoid anything artificial, sodas, alcohol,
    and non whole grains entirely. I also drink the apple cider beverage which is
    very beneficial. With the exception of
    having a wisdom tooth removed in 2005 I haven’t needed a dentist since 1986.
    Before when I ate meats and the typical American diet I suffered often in the
    dentist chair.

    On occasion something will happen and I cant eat my regular daily intake of
    a plate full fresh spinach when usually I also am forced to eat mostly
    cooked convenient foods instead, after a
    week I can feel the negative impact on my teeth, that reverses with I get back
    to my regular healthy diet. Which is 95%
    is pigging out at the local salad bar.

    Eating a wide variety of plant based foods is far more
    nutritious and free of harmful content than used food (meats) that will harm
    your health far more, especially since uric acid will hinder you entire health
    with everything from tooth decay to rheumatism and cancer!

    • Andrea says

      This is one thing that I am wondering about, too. From one side, one keeps hearing about the miraculous benefits of raw food, vegan and vegetarian diets – and from the other side, it’s the paleo diet with meat and all that makes wonders.

      Where is the truth?

  12. Ivanova says

    If I’m trying to reduce phytic acid in my family’s diet (we’re already adding vitamins and minerals plus cod oil) do I need to just avoid the foods on the list in this article? I know tons of food contains the acid, but are those listed the main ones to find alternatives for? For instance it wouldn’t be as damaging with sunflower seeds, quinoa, and black beans vs almonds, brown rice, and pinto beans?

    • Kai says

      For me, I just try to balance things out, Pretty equal parts plants and meat, or at least broth when I didn’t thaw any chicken. Foods rich in folic acid to balance out the uric acid from the occasional steak, and almost always grains and legumes together when I have them. LOTS of cheese, milk, and butter. Butter makes everything better.

      I only recently learned about phytic acid, but since I love starchy foods too much to give up, I’ve been taking plenty of vitamin D. I have a few cavities (my boyfriend swears they aren’t as bad as I think they are), and I am NOT going to the dentist. Too claustrophobic, can’t stand people near my face, and don’t want their novacaine or x-rays. So I’ve been trying oil pulling with coconut oil, the remineralizing toothpaste, and plenty of supplements. I hope it works.

  13. Angel says

    Do you have any alternatives for a picky five-year-old? I usually pack sandwiches for lunch…what is a good substitute for a lunch? I would pack bentos but he doesn’t like his meals cold…which they will be by the time it is lunch.

  14. John says

    I changed my diet and also stared a cod liver/butter oil. My issue now is my teeth are hurting really bad. Is it because my teeth are trying to heal but the fillings are in the way? I am not sure what to do!

  15. Coville says

    I don’t think you can assume that genetics don’t play a role. For example, I never developed one of my adult teeth. I still have a baby tooth in front, Lord knows I’m going to look ridiculous if it ever falls out! However, the very same thing happened to my mom. We both have a baby tooth in the same spot and thankfully they’re both hanging on. I also inherited a very small mouth that cramped my teeth to the point they were crooked. However, what’s interesting is that my tooth pattern was very similar to my dad’s. Also, my husband’s family all have crooked teeth but they all share a very similar, almost identical pattern. Despite the crookedness they have very healthy teeth, I don’t think my husband has a single cavity. Preventing cavities through diet makes sense but ruling out genetics for straight teeth? Seems like a stretch to me!

  16. Cathy Townshend says

    What about dairy? It’s not on the list, but conventional wisdom is that it’s a good source of calcium for bones/teeth, while I’ve also seen the alternative view that dairy consumption is actually associated with poorer bone/teeth health (ie increased rates of osteoporosis). Any idea which way to jump?

    Also, my son (7)’s adult teeth are coming through all yellow and blotchy and the dentist says he has malformed enamel, possibly due to a virus he contracted at the age of 2-3 (he had hand-foot-mouth and chickenpox that year, among other daycare-borne bugs). Will this regimen help with that? (please say it will! please!) The dentist just says to make sure to use adult fluoride toothpaste, but that it can’t be fixed.

  17. Keira N says

    Hi,
    I’ve just got my braces taken off and have been trying to change my diet, but have ony now started to make real changes as I’ve begun contortion training… I’m wondering if my retainers I have to wear at night would interfere with tooth healing? (I also have permanent retainers on my bottom front 6 teeth.)

  18. Christian says

    If grains, seeds and nuts are bad for us, why are those things meant to be our main source of food, according to the bible?

    Seeds, particularly the apricot seed, contain vitamin B-17 that is required to kill destroy cancer cells.

  19. Luna K says

    So, how much rice (primarily brown) can I eat without it hurting me? I really love rice and I dont think I can cut it out completely.

  20. Christine says

    Hi Katie,
    I was wondering what you eat for snacking, in particular crackers? I am adopting a remineralizing diet hoping to reverse some cavities and see if it will help reverse my receding gums. My son is still growing his teeth so I also want to make sure he has a low phytic acid diet. I had been making seed crackers for him (they are soaked w/ an acid and then roasted) but it seems like they may be still a phytic acid concern for both of us as we are trying to generate teeth matter. Can you please share what you used for yourself and for your children for snacking when you were trying to remineralize. I realize this is just for the remineralization period and we can switch to a more relaxed eating style (like seeds, nuts and grains that are soaked) when are dental health is OK. I heard chia seeds, hemp heart and flax seeds are low or no phytic acid… have you heard the same? :) Thanks!

    oh, and we will be traveling on an airplane and with layovers and switching planes we will be traveling for 24plus hours… so I’m hoping the snacks you suggest will be able to last without refrigeration (like jello wouldn’t work in this case). Thanks!

  21. Melissa says

    I have always had HORRIBLE teeth. I am trying to implement these things into my daily diet. My daughter is 11 months old and does not have teeth yet, but I would like to do some preventative measures. I have a few questions:
    -I have been eating all wheat pasta and bread for years, and thought I was being more healthy. Is sprouted wheat bread still a no no?
    -Also, does soaking beans (DD LOVES green beans) lessen the phytic acid, or should they just be avoided?

    • says

      Sprouted grains are less bad than unsprouted, but they still have harmful properties, and add so little to diet (other than a convenient filler) that it’s really just best to avoid them. Soaking beans does definitely lesson that phytic acid. We still avoid them for the most part, but now and again I do include (soaked) beans.

  22. Rae says

    My tooth just chipped today, I knew it was coming, but finding this article while researching on what to do next is startling. But I already think that I’m too late and may need a root canal :( I’m sot disappointed because I do not want a root canal. But I have a question, if I get a root canal, will my tooth never re-mineralize again? What if I get a filling? Answers? I definitely need to buy this book to prevent the rest of my teeth going through this!

    -Rae

  23. Melissa says

    Ok! I just got all of my supplies to make my own toothpaste. I have also been using the OraWellness Healthy Mouth Blend–Wow! I ordered the Green Pastures Butter Oil/ Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend non-gelatin capsules as well. Do you use the liquid? I’m not sure how many I should take per day, the bottle says 2 but I read online that is not enough. Help!

  24. Elizabeth says

    I had braces in high school about four years ago. As my wisdom teeth come in it shifted all my teeth back to being crooked. If I eat a plant based diet without grains and such, could I fix my teeth and wisdom teeth to being straight again? Thus not having to take out my wisdom teeth?

  25. Manjitsingh Bhalla says

    Reasons explained on probabilities for tooth decay in children are good. Facts on phytic acid with its effects on tooth, bone and overall oral health along with the preventive and reversing steps of tooth decay are pretty informative.

    Great column! Keep posting such details.

  26. Jennifer says

    My kids are 8, 7, and 5, and we have been following mostly a paleo diet for a few years now but I don’t eat healthy during pregnancy and before. Now we are following the recommendations from Cure Tooth Decay but my kids teeth are crowded and the dentist is talking about braces. What recommendations do you have to avoid braces and how do I find an orthodontist to support me?

  27. Jen says

    This all gets so overwhelming. What happened to just feeding your family. You think you’re doing something healthy and then… . There so much info out there it get’s to confusing, and who has time to look into everything when you are taking care of a family. I’ve always heard how healthy lintils and beans are for you, as well as how gluten is so important for the brain development of children (of course not gluten in stores, I grind my wheat berries). So, what do you do? Sorry just venting. All these diets and fads that have been coming and going through the years are just overwhelming to say the least. I mean I don’t ever remember my mom being so stressed trying to feed us growing up. She feed us a relativley healthy diet and we lived. Do you have any thoughts on research showing how lengumes and whole wheat are healthy for the body? Please don’t take this as me being upset with your post. Quite the opposite, I trust your site and have used it for years, so reading this has caused concern for me. Any thoughts or comments would be much appreciated.

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