WE’RE ALL acquainted with the saying: “You are what you eat.” This is, to a large extent, true. Every day, your body renews its structures, building new muscle, bone, skin, and blood. The foods you eat provide the building blocks for these new tissues. In order to accomplish this task, foods must supply energy and nutrients.
The six kinds of nutrients are: Water, carbohydrates (including fiber), fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. These include nutrients that cannot be made by the body, but must come from raw materials: Food.
These essential nutrients include: Some carbohydrates, the essential fatty acids (found in fats), the essential amino acids (found in proteins), fifteen vitamins, approximately 25 minerals, and water.
Water is the major constituent of most of the food we eat. In fact, more than half of our body is water. Imagine that! Fats and proteins, which provide energy and building blocks on which cells depend, are also abundant.
The least abundant materials found in foods are vitamins and minerals, but they are no less important. Vitamins are the metabolic regulators, and some minerals also serve as building blocks for bones and teeth. If we do not eat enough of the vitamins and minerals we need, our bodies are likely to develop deficiency diseases.
Although poor hygiene plays a major role in the development of gum disease and tooth decay, an extremely important secondary factor is diet and nutrition. In the 1920s and ‘30s, a dentist by the name of Westen Price studied the relationship between diet and tooth decay. His study compared a modernized community in Switzerland with a more traditional one.
In the traditional community of Loetschental Valley, life was simple. Cultural and spiritual values were highly appreciated and practised, and there were no policemen or jails. The people’s diet included whole grains and meat and milk from their own goats and cows. Dr. Price also found in his tests that the soil was rich in vitamins and minerals.
Dental surveys conducted among the valley’s children between the ages of seven and sixteenth indicated they had 0.3 cavities per person. In other words, one out of three children had one (1) cavity, but two out of three had no cavities!
However, Dr. Price’s surveys on children in modern communities provided significantly different results. These children, with diets rich in refined flour and sugar, had 20.2 cavities per child. Dr. Price surveyed a third community in which some foods were purchased, but home-grown foods were consumed more frequently. This community had an average of 2.3 cavities per 100 teeth, a little less than one (1) cavity per person.
Over the years, Dr. Price conducted the same studies among other peoples such as Native Americans, the Melanesians and Polynesians, tribes in eastern and central Africa, the aborigines of Australia, Alaskan Eskimos, the Maoris of New Zealand, and tribes located in the Amazon basin of Peru.
The results always proved the same: There was a definite relationship between the rate of cavities and modern diet.
Dr. Price found that along with the higher incidence of cavities associated with the modern diet, there was also more crowding of teeth, with the presence of malformed dental arches, malformations of bones in the face and head, personality disturbances, and a greater incidence of other types of diseases.
Heredity did not appear to be a contributing factor, since Dr. Price found that the problems existed among children who were eating a modern diet, but not among their siblings who had been born before the parents had adopted the new diet.
The new or modern diet consisted of ‘processed foods’, those made with synthetic chemicals for the purpose of improving their taste, appearance, or shelf life. Dr.Price found most of these foods to be lacking in vital nutrients, but high in refined flour and sugar.
Bacteria in the mouth use sugars — sugar, molasses, honey, corn sweeteners, and corn syrups — for energy, and to reproduce. When hygiene is poor and the diet is high in sugars, more bacteria are produced, causing an increase in the amount of plaque formed.
Bacteria may not respond in the same way to artificial sweeteners such as saccharin or Nutrasweet; however, it remains to be seen what effects these chemicals may have on the rest of the body.
Studies have indicated it is more harmful to eat sugar-containing foods in between meals than it is to eat them with meals. The more teeth and gums are exposed to sugars, the more damage is done. In other words, if you eat sweets with your meals, you are exposing your teeth to acid-producing foods two or three times a day.
Eating sweets in between meals significantly increases your exposure, since most meals already contain acid-producing ingredients such as meats and breads.
A balanced diet consists of foods that contain the right nutrients for the maintenance of healthy tissues in the body. Soft, sticky foods, which tend to remain on the grooves and in between the teeth, produce more plaque. A diet high in firm fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables tends to help clean the teeth and tissues.
Chewing gums that contain sugar, saccharin, and other chemicals should be avoided. An honest inventory of your hygiene routine and diet will determine where you need to direct your attention.
You should certainly consider the possibility of nutritional deficiencies if you brush and floss every day and still notice bleeding gums, cold sores, and cavities. The lack of certain vitamins, for instance, is revealed by various signs and symptoms in the mouth.
To avoid experiencing such symptoms, it is important to learn some basic facts about vitamins. Ask your dentist, and if they ‘put you off’, then seek another.