The conventional theory of the formation of cavities is that sugar in the diet feeds bad bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce an acidic environment that erodes the protective enamel layer of each tooth allowing the acids and germs to penetrate into the tooth, decaying and causing dental cavities. This is just a small piece of a much bigger picture. I set the stage in part 1 of this series.
Back in the 1970s, Dr. Ralph Steinman did some extensive research and uncovered some fascinating facts about our teeth and the role of diet on cavities. Dr. Steinman, together with endocrinologist Dr. Leonora, ran hundreds of studies, published in the book, Dentinal Fluid Transport. His research can be read here.
What Dr. Steinman found is a game changer for how we look at foods, sugar and their role in our dental health. What he discovered is slightly different than the way our culture has come to understand tooth decay–different enough to affect the way we take care of our teeth. He discovered “Dentinal fluid flow.”
What is Dentinal Fluid Flow?
Our teeth, being alive, have a self-protective mechanism: the dentinal fluid flow. If the flow of fluid is properly flowing from the inside toward the outside, the acid is neutralized and the bacteria are flushed out and away from the tooth surface. The teeth essentially have a constant stream flushing the germs and junk out so they cannot enter the tooth through the dentinal tubules. If, however the flow of this fluid is reversed, the bad stuff has a free ride, downstream into the inside of the tooth.
Dentinal fluid flow is like a river through our teeth that makes them living structures. The dentin is the layer of tissue in each of our teeth just between the hard outer enamel surface and the soft tooth pulp. This layer contains thousands of tubules through which this dentinal fluid flows. Dr. Steinman discovered that since our teeth don’t have a blood supply, this dentinal fluid flow is what bring nutrients from the blood supply to our teeth as well as has a cleansing action away from our teeth, much like lymph.
He further discovered that when the dentinal fluid flow is flowing from the inside of our teeth to the outside, the teeth are very resistant to decay. However, when the fluid flow reverses and flows from the surface of the teeth to the inner portion of the teeth, decay sets in very quickly.
Dentinal fluid flow is controlled by the parotid gland, which is part of our salivary system and is located in the region behind our lower jaw. The parotid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain and, you guessed it, the hypothalamus is controlled by hormones, nutrients in the blood and blood sugar. These determine whether the fluid flows outwardly or inwardly.
You can control this flow by paying attention to what you consume.
The Much Bigger Picture
So, if sugar on the surface of your teeth can be flushed away by this wonderful flow of cleansing fluid, then you can eat sugar with no risk to your teeth, right? Of course not, that would be too simple. In fact, studies have found that even when a sugar laden food is fed directly into the stomach, completely bypassing the teeth, cavities occur.
How does this happen?
Blood sugar levels, determined by how much sugar, carbs, and starches you eat directly affect the amount of the mineral phosphorous in the blood. And the level of phosphorous in the blood directs the hypothalamus to instruct the parotid gland to adjust the direction of the dentinal fluid flow in the teeth.
Dr. Steinman found that by inducing a low blood phosphorus level, the whole dentinal fluid system went into self destruct mode and decay quickly followed. He also proved that when the blood phosphorus was maintained at a high level, dentinal fluid flowed in a healthy direction, decreasing the occurrence of tooth decay.”
But before you run out and purchase phosphorous supplements, let me warn you: it’s important to understand that by doing this you will throw off the balance of minerals in your body. The body seeks homeostasis, or balance, and we need to do things gently, nudging the body in the direction we want it to go, not forcing it.
Did you get all that? Let’s Review
Our teeth have a flow of nourishing fluid that flows through them like a river of life. We must have a lot of nutrients and minerals in our diets so that this fluid is building up and repairing our teeth.
We also need this fluid to flow in the correct direction, which is from inside to out. When flowing this way, the bugs on the surface of our teeth are kept out and the surface of the tooth is protected by this fluid.
If we consume too much sugar, we throw off the levels of phosphorus in our blood and this signals the parotid gland to switch the flow of dentinal fluid in the opposite direction. This quickly leads to decay.
What factors cause blood phosphorus to raise or lower?
- Blood sugar: High blood sugar = low blood phosphorus
- Low minerals, including phosphorous: Foods that block our nutrient absorption or replace nutrient dense foods in our diet
- Lifestyle: Stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and some medicines
Avoid high blood sugar by reducing these foods (or eliminating them altogether):
- Sugar: Refined carbohydrates, breads, crackers, sugary drinks, fruit juice, low fat pasteurized milk, flavored milk, soda, diet high in refined grains, gummy fruit snacks, sugary snacks of any kind
- Foods that block nutrients (due to phytic acid): Refined grains, excessive grains and improperly prepared grains, beans and nuts (yes, nuts are healthy, but need to be prepared properly for idea oral health)
- Foods that displace or prevent nutrient intake and absorption: Sugar, junk and refined carbs, improperly prepared grains and sugary drinks
Let’s get your family get back on track with oral health. We’ll cover:
- What hurdles are you facing?
- Guidance with meal ideas, how to feed kids and where to start
Click here to schedule your FREE phone consultation. Go to my Toolkit to get tons of great info, recipes and freebies as well as the bonus article on Cavity Prevention. We’ll look into a customized plan for you family that will get you back on the road to cavity free kids.
Read Part 3 of my Cavity Prevention Series.