Tag Archives: gum disease

Child at DentistThe science is clear: processed foods are detrimental to our healthNow, new article in the April 2020 issue of Scientific American suggests that processed foods may undermine our health in ways we may not have previously considered, particularly our oral health.(1) 

 Teenagers and early adults regularly visit the dentist for removal of their third molars—often referred to as wisdom teethBefore this rite of passage, teens and smaller children undergo regular dental visits to fill cavities, remove calculus (tartar,) and, at a minimum, endure a thorough cleaning and polishing. 

Paleontologist and dental anthropologist Peter Ungar of the University of Arkansas says we have lost our way when it comes to dental hygiene and health. 

“Most other vertebrate creatures do not have the same dental problems that we do,” Ungar saysThey rarely have crooked teeth or cavities. Our fossil forebears did not have impacted wisdom teeth, and few appear to have gum disease.” 

Dr. Ungar attributes these maladies to the softer and more sugary foods that we eat almost from birth. Strained peas and apple sauce are poor substitutes for our ancestral diets. Instead, he argues, eating foods that are much less processed cause our jaws and teeth to grow strong, straight, and align properlyto an extent that allows enough space for all 32 of our teeth. Mechanical stress of our growing jaws is key to oral health. 

He also argues that the move away from ancestral diets has led to tooth decay—primarily exacerbated by high sugar content in processed foods, and the subsequent shift in the mouth’s bacterial biome. His view is supported by the work of Dr. Loren Cordain (2),(3) and others associated with The Paleo Diet®.(4)   

For example, Cordain notes, and Ungar supports the observation, that across the animal kingdom, dental problems are not the norm. Humans that pre-date terrestrial agriculture show few signs of dental problems, as is the case with small, isolated human populations today that retain hunting and gathering for food, with no access to westernized foods. 

More recently, the biggest jump in problems occurred during the Industrial Revolution, when access to highly refined foods and sucrose became the norm. Soft, sugary foods tipped the balance of oral health to disaster.

Tooth enamel is one of the hardest natural substances. Enamel is underlain by a tough but relatively flexible layer of dentin. Ungar emphasizes that we emerge at birth genetically preprogrammed to mechanically stress our teeth and jaws rather forcefully. Minimally processed foods that require vigorous chewing allow this natural process of oral stress to occur, much to a person’s oral well-being.

Ungar cited work by Robert Corruccini of Southern Illinois UniversityCorruccini, in a conversation with one of his students from nearby rural Kentucky, was surprised to learn that senior citizens in the student’s community had remarkably high oral health. A follow-up study by Corruccini showed the seniors had better bites than their younger children and grandchildren. The difference? Lifelong experience with lightly processed, hard-to-chew foods. 

The moral here is clear. Dental health professionals need to incorporate an evolutionary perspective in their overall strategies for oral health. 

 

References 

  1. Ungar, P.S.  2020. The trouble with teeth. Scientific American 322(4):45-49. 
  2. Cordain L., Eaton S.B., Sebastian A., Mann N.Lindeberg S., Watkins B.A., et al. 2005. Origin and evolution of Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81:341–54.  https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/81/2/341/4607411 
  3. Cordain, L.  2011. The paleo diet: lose weight and get healthy by eating the foods you were designed to eat. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 266pp. 
  4. Vuolo, S.  2016. Tooth decay and the paleo child. The Paleo Diet Newsletter.  https://thepaleodiet.com/tooth-decay-and-the-paleo-child/ 

Gum Disease and Nutrient-Dense Food Supplements | The Paleo Diet

Originally published in the March/April 2015 issue of Well Being Journal

Today, there is a 47 percent prevalence rate of periodontitis among adults in the United States. Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease, where not only are the gums infected but the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth is infected and breaking down. For those who are over 65 years old, the prevalence rate jumps to 70 percent.

I have been a periodontist (a dentist who specializes in gum disease) for forty years. For the first thirty-five years, I treated advanced gum diseases the way most periodontists do: by performing traditional gum surgery, which was somewhat successful but relatively uncomfortable for patients. Several years ago, I learned a better way for my patients. In 2010, I became licensed in a laser procedure called LANAP® (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure) that kills harmful bacteria, helps grow new bone, and creates overall better results without the use of a scalpel or sutures. Most important, patients don’t experience the pain or swelling that has been part of traditional gum surgery.

In 2013, I started to become educated about the importance of ancestral nutrition and nutrient-dense foods, and how they affect dental and overall health. I attended a five-day nutrition course for health professionals, held at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and, several months later, a four-day Food As Medicine conference. This education was life changing for me and has been life changing for many of my patients. I personally became reenergized, and I reengineered my periodontal practice.

With all this new information pertaining to lifestyle, I also wanted to know what science had to say about nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods specifically for gum disease. I researched PubMed, which is the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s database of published medical research from around the world. I found one study regarding gum disease and Paleolithic nutrition  and several recent studies involving nutrition and gum disease. However, I could find no studies on how specific nutrient-dense foods affected the progress of gum disease. So, in March of 2014, I decided to create a study using my own patients who wished to be a part of my research. I enlisted the help of Ramiel Nagel, researcher and author of Cure Tooth Decay, who designed the study with me. Now my research is completed, and the results are in.

Selection of Patients

The specific criteria for patient selection were:

  • The patient could not have been on any antibiotic during the last three months.
  • The patient had not undergone active gum treatment (including deep cleaning or a general cleaning by the hygienist) in the last three months.
  • Infected gum pockets (the spaces between the gum and tooth) bled when a periodontal probe (a gum-pocket measuring instrument) was gently inserted into the gum space.
  • The gum pockets had a depth of at least 4 mm (1-3 mm without any bleeding while being measured with a periodontal probe is considered healthy).
  • No more than four individual teeth per patient who met the criteria were selected for the study.
  • Participants were instructed not to change any habits, lifestyle activities, dietary regimens, or medications during the course of the thirty-day study.

Results

We selected thirteen patients who met the criteria above for the study. They agreed to take a variety of nutrient-dense real food supplements for thirty days to find out if these supplements would be effective in reducing some of their manifestations of gum disease. I examined and measured 41 teeth within this group of thirteen patients.

I gave these patients three different nutrient-dense food supplements in capsule form, containing various micronutrients, which they took almost every day. The micronutrients are identified in websites referenced below.A synergistic effect exists from taking this combination of supplements.

Here are the doses for each of the supplements:

My patients took these nutrient-dense supplement capsules along with their normal foods for thirty days. For the first five days of the study, they gradually transitioned into taking the full doses, in order to help their bodies acclimate to these nutrient-dense foods. If they had taken the full doses on day one, they might have had nausea or diarrhea, since their bodies were not used to these supplements. Also, they did not take any capsules on every seventh day, which was a rest day for their guts. As I mentioned, they did not change anything else in their diets or daily routines. They followed the same schedules and lifestyles as they had before the study—the only difference was that they took these nutrient-dense supplements.

For more information, author bio, and references see the full article in the print, or digital download version of the Well Being Journal.

“Gum Disease and Nutrient-Dense Food Supplements: Results of an In-Office Study,” by Alvin Danenberg, D.D.S., is reprinted by permission from the March/April 2015 issue of Well Being Journal, Volume 24, Number 2; see more at //wellbeingjournal.com.

Dr. Alvin DanenbergDr. Danenberg is a periodontist in South Carolina who has been in practice for 40 years. Within the last 4 years, he has included Laser Periodontal Therapy as his primary treatment for periodontal disease. The procedure is called “Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure” or “LANAP”. The last two years he has incorporated a lifestyle program for all his periodontal patients including an ancestral diet to enhance their overall body’s health and function. In July of this year he was awarded the designation, “Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner.” For more information,  please visit www.DrDanenberg.com. 

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