You may already be taking a natural approach with your diet and skin care, choosing organic options with few preservatives and other harmful ingredients. But how you approach your dental health? If you’re like many people, you’re unaware that it’s possible to care for your teeth and gums in the all-natural and holistic way you care for the rest of your body.
According to the insights of Dr. Edward Mellanby, Dr. Weston Price and Dr. Ramiel Nagel, three well-known authorities in the field of nutrition and dental health, there are four main things that contribute to tooth decay: lack of minerals in the diet; lack of fat soluble vitamins; too much consumption of phytic acid-rich foods; and too much consumption of processed sugar. The good news is it that, once you address these dietary concerns and implement some other lifestyle changes, it is totally possible to reverse cavities, treat gum disease and whiten teeth naturally. Here’s how.
Start Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is one of my all-time favorite habits for health in general, but especially for dental health. Used primarily in Ayurvedic medicine (India’s 5,000 year-old healing practice) oil pulling is a fantastic oral detoxification procedure that is done by swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes—to literally “pull” toxins from your mouth into the oil—and then spitting the oil into a trash can. (You don’t want to swallow the oil because that can reintroduce toxins to your body, and spitting down the drain can clog pipes.) Traditionally, oil pulling was done with sesame oil, but coconut oil is also a great choice. If you have gingivitis or you just want to take your oil pulling up a notch, you can also add 2 drops of an antibacterial essential oil like clove or tea tree to the base oil.
Oil pulling is one of the best natural methods for removing bacteria and promoting healthy teeth and gums, and within one week, most people notice a cleaner mouth and improvement in their breath. Within a month, some daily oil pullers experience healthier gums or even dental repair.
Kiss Sugar Goodbye
One natural approach to dental health that many people are familiar with is avoiding sugar. And when it comes to avoiding cavities and gum problems, cutting out sugar is definitely one of the easiest and most effective ways to see improvements. Sugar not only feeds unwanted and destructive oral bacteria, it’s also extremely acidic. And it gets worse: dietary sugar (those added to foods; not the naturally-occurring sugars found in fruit) can actually demineralize and decalcify the enamel of your teeth and create dental decay.
Sugar is also highly inflammatory to your gums and promotes gum disease. So without a doubt, you’ll want to avoid soda, candy and other sugar-rich sweets. You’ll also want to steer clear of fruit juice, as it’s just a concentrated form of sugar that doesn’t have the fiber of whole fruit to balance it out. And don’t turn to artificial sweeteners that may be sugar-free, but come with all kinds of other serious health concerns. If you must sweeten your food and drinks, I recommend all-natural sugar alternatives like stevia and raw honey—but only in moderation.
Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods
If you’re going to beat tooth decay or maintain good dental health, you’ll need to increase your intake of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. This is also crucial to gum health as well. There are high-quality supplements on the market that can help with this, but I generally recommend getting the majority of your nutrients from organic whole foods—components of what I call a healing diet.
You should be getting minerals (and plenty of protein) from high-quality animal foods like bone broth, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish and free-range eggs. Next, you’ll want to be eating lots of raw and cooked vegetables, especially leafy greens. If you consume dairy, raw is definitely the way to go (try raw cheeses, kefir and grass-fed butter), as raw dairy is full of the calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and other nutrients that keep teeth healthy. And foods high in healthy fats—like coconut oil, avocado, olives, and fish or fermented cod liver oil—will help your body absorb the vitamins you’re consuming.
Last but not least, for the sake of your teeth, gums and entire body, completely avoid processed foods.
Eliminate Phytic Acid
Another way to improve your dental health through your diet is to eliminate phytic acid as much as possible. Phytic acid (phytate) is a mineral blocker and enzyme inhibitor found in grains, nuts, seeds and beans. It’s dangerous because it has been shown to prevent the absorption of minerals in your food while also leaching already-present minerals from your bones and teeth. This has become such an issue in our modern diets because we don’t use ancient food preparation techniques, like sprouting and fermentation, which naturally kill off the phytic acid.
As a result, I recommend eating organic and non-GMO foods as much as possible, as they tend to have lower phytic acid levels than traditionally-grown foods. And when you do consume grains and beans, opt for sprouted varieties (or soak and sprout them yourself).
Try a Remineralizing Toothpaste
Adding fluoride to drinking water as well as to toothpaste has been controversial for decades. But there is one fact that everyone seems to agree on: fluoride is undeniably toxic to the human body at certain levels.
Instead of a traditional toothpaste, a fluoride-free, re-mineralizing toothpaste is a much safer and—more effective—choice for cleaning your teeth. There are several brands on the market, but sometimes they can be pricey. If you want to save some money and stay healthy, try making your own Homemade Remineralizing Toothpaste, made from coconut oil, baking soda, xylitol or stevia, essential oils and trace minerals.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.