I’ve written before about how teeth can be remineralized and cavities can heal (contrary to common belief). I was highly skeptical when I first read about this, but now I’ve actually seen this in my own family and in relatives and clients.
Last week, after a facebook comment sparked a lot of interest, I figured it was time to write a more detailed explanation of the actual “how-to” of tooth remineralization. (Just a note: I am not a dentist, nor am I recommending that you do not visit and consult with your dentist… just sharing some information that was very valuable to me)
Can Teeth Heal and Regenerate?
I used to think that the answer to this question was a resounding “NO” as this is what I had always been told by my dentist. I never questioned this until I saw research from Dr. Weston A. Price and Drs. Mellanby (more in this post) showing that diet had a tremendous impact on oral health (even more so than brushing in some cases) and that there had even been cases of cavities reversing.
As I thought about this, it made sense…
Why would bones and other tissue be able to heal and regenerate, but not teeth?
How did other populations throughout the world have great oral health, no cavities and no need for braces when they didn’t even have access to modern dentistry?
As I noted in a previous post:
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 the 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:
- The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
- The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
- 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.
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:
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!)
When I brought this information up in health circles, it would usually spark a lot of debate and some strong comments from dentists or dental health professionals. Most would admit, after a time, that the enamel of teeth could regenerate but that once a cavity was through the dentin (the layer under the enamel), it was impossible for it to heal without dental intervention.
In my own life and in further reading, I’ve found that this isn’t the case either. As this article elaborates:
Fortunately, a decaying or broken tooth has the ability to heal itself. Pulp contains cells called odontoblasts, which form new dentin if the diet is good. Here’s what Dr. Edward Mellanby had to say about his wife’s research on the subject. This is taken from Nutrition and Disease:
Since the days of John Hunter it has been known that when the enamel and dentine are injured by attrition or caries, teeth do not remain passive but respond to the injury by producing a reaction of the odontoblasts in the dental pulp in an area generally corresponding to the damaged tissue and resulting in a laying down of what is known as secondary dentine. In 1922 M. Mellanby proceeded to investigate this phenomenon under varying nutritional conditions and found that she could control the secondary dentine laid down in the teeth of animals as a reaction to attrition both in quality and quantity, independently of the original structure of the tooth. Thus, when a diet of high calcifying qualities, ie., one rich in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus was given to the dogs during the period of attrition, the new secondary dentine laid down was abundant and well formed whether the original structure of the teeth was good or bad. On the other hand, a diet rich in cereals and poor in vitamin D resulted in the production of secondary dentine either small in amount or poorly calcified, and this happened even if the primary dentine was well formed.
To be fair, most dentists probably don’t see many patients who are eating a specific diet to improve their oral health, and most of the studies and research they read is probably done on people eating a somewhat average diet (high in phytic acid and low in Vitamin D), so it is very logical that they wouldn’t think that teeth could heal. It certainly isn’t common, but with very specific supplements and a very careful nutritional program, it is certainly possible!
In early 2010, my regular dental check-up revealed that I had some soft spots and a lot of plaque on my teeth. I also had one “official” cavity, though it wasn’t bad, and while they suggested getting it filled soon, it wasn’t a huge rush. They did warn me that I had the beginning stages of gingivitis in several places and had a lot of plaque.(It took them about 30-40 minutes to scrape and clean my teeth, which I thought was normal) They took x-rays, so I have picture evidence of my teeth at this time.
I had every intention of getting the cavity filled and continuing with regular dentist appointments, but then life happened and I didn’t get around to scheduling an appointment for months. By the time I finally had time to schedule an appointment, I had seen some interesting info in books about the ability of teeth to heal, so I decided to hold off.
I did more research, read the book Cure Tooth Decay (aff) and read accounts of other people reversing dental damage, so I decided to give it a try. I took advice from all the research I had done and figured out a specific diet and supplement regimen that I was going to use to try to heal my teeth.
I followed the regimen for a few months, and noticed that my teeth were whiter and much less sensitive to cold. This was big news to me as I used to have such sensitive teeth that drinking too cold of a drink could literally almost bring me to tears. I also found out about this time that I was expecting a baby (p.s. this diet promotes fertility too!) and decided to continue on the regimen for the pregnancy, as all of the things I was doing were also supportive of healthy pregnancy.
It was fall of 2011 before I finally got around to making it back to the dentist (I know, I know… every six months…) and I didn’t mention a thing about the cavities and soft spots that needed to be fixed… and neither did the dentist!
It also only took them about 5 minutes to clean and scrape my teeth. I thought she was still checking them and she was done! The hygienist told me that my teeth and gums looked great, and asked if I had started using fluoride or fluoride toothpaste (my chart made it very clear that I was anti-fluoride). I told her no but that I had been trying to make sure I was taking better care of my teeth lately (very true!).
When the dentist checked my teeth, he didn’t mention any problem areas either and remarked that my gums looked great! On a random note, I heard him telling another patient that cutting back on the sugar and starches was a good idea since “without starches, cavities can not form, since they feed on sugar and starches.” Newfound respect for my dentist!
I’ve also now tried and seen this regimen work for clients and relatives (currently trying it on my husband).
So what did I do?
Diet to Help Heal Cavities and Improve Oral Health
- I drastically cut foods that contained phytic acid. I already wasn’t eating grains or beans, but I also cut or limited nuts.
- Limited foods containing even natural sugars or starches- I limited fruit and even starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and focused on mineral rich vegetables, bone broths, meats and healthy fats.
- Ate a LOT of healthy fats. I added about 1/4 cup extra of coconut oil to my diet each day, and used only pastured, cultured butter.
- I made an effort to consume a lot of homemade bone broth for its added minerals.
To recap: No grains, beans or nuts and limited fruits and starches. Lots of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and bone broth.
Supplements to Help Heal Cavities and Improve Oral Health
To help the body remineralize cavities, it is sometimes necessary to increase mineral levels with supplements. While diet alone might be enough, many foods are depleted of nutrients from being grown in nutrient depleted soil, so supplements help fill the gaps. These are the supplements I typically recommend for improved oral health and dental healing:
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Blend- Green Pastures makes this as a Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil blend I prefer the combination in capsules or there is a liquid version (tastes terrible). This is one of the main supplements recommended by Dr. Price from his research.
- Vitamin D- This was the other main supplement that Dr. Price and the Drs. Mellanby found was extremely supportive of dental healing. In the study they did, cavities healed even when diet wasn’t changed if Vitamin D was optimized and the best healing occurred when diet was optimized and Vitamin D was added.
- Coconut Oil- I take an additional 1/2 cup a day of coconut oil in a smoothie or melted in tea each day. We get ours from Tropical Traditions, but you can find it many places…. just look for organic, virgin and unrefined coconut oil.
- Others: I also take Magnesium, Gelatin and Vitamin C daily, though these aren’t as vital to tooth healing.
- I brush with homemade remineralizing toothpaste daily and while I was actively trying to heal teeth, I swished with both calcium and magnesium powders dissolved in water daily to help provide minerals and to keep the mouth alkaline.
- I also added Ora Wellness Brushing Blend to my regimen and use their (gentler) toothbrush daily.
- I swished daily with Hydrogen Peroxide to keep mouth bacteria at bay (which had the added effect of whitening teeth).
- I brushed with activated charcoal every couple of days to help pull toxins from the mouth (more on that soon!)
What do you think? Would you try remineralizing your own teeth? Do you already do these things? Weigh in below!