A paper published in the journal General Dentistry could bridge the gap between diet and tooth health.
An article published in 2010 by Ken Southward, DDS, FAGD illuminates the connection between diet and the ability of the tooth to resist infection and bacterial erosion. Cavities are a result of the body not able to control inflammation within the tooth. In order to understand how the body does so, we must look at the mechanism that allows us to influence the structure of the tooth from within the body.
The tooth has the capacity from within to allow the body to nourish the tooth. This may sound very similar to what Weston A. Price proponents talk about, so there is a grain of truth to their argument. But let’s take a closer look at what modern science has discovered when it comes to tooth nourishment…
Centrifugal Fluid Flow
A healthy tooth is nourished by blood flow to the internal dentin of the tooth. This blood flow is described as a centrifugal or outward flow from inside towards the dentin and enamel.
This fluid flow can be influenced by diet, but not in the way that W.A.P. supporters have described (as being a lack of fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients). Although severely compromised nutrition can affect what is delivered to the tooth, a diet that provides all of the necessary nutrients and that is calorically sufficient should supply the tooth adequately.
What does affect the outward flow does have to do with diet, though probably not what you would think.
Blood Sugar – Cavity Connection
There is a connection between the blood sugar spikes that occur in the body and the development of cavities. Pioneers in the research of tooth nourishment, Leonora et al, showed that diet can have an effect of the hypothalamus signalling of hormones to the parotid gland which can shut off the flow towards the outside of the tooth and even reverse the flow towards the inside of the body.
New diabetes research has enlightened us on how this occurs, and it has to do with blood sugar spikes. An increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mitochondria of the hypothalamus alters regulation of insulin production. High blood sugar increases metabolism in the mitochondria, in turn increases the ROS exhaust. The excess sugar triggers the upregulation of insulin production in the pancreas and simultaneously downregulates the parotid hormone.
Many antioxidants are able to keep the dentinal flow going outwardly, so eating a diet high in antioxidants can help prevent tooth decay. Fruits high in antioxidants such as berries and pomegranate are some examples.
But blood sugar is much more complicated than just how much carbohydrate is in your diet. Unfortunately this is where the article fails to deliver good information on the subject of regulating blood sugar.
However, there is further diabetes research that is bringing forth information about what causes blood sugar problems from within the cells, and that has to do with the amount of fat consumed in the diet.
Excess fat in the diet can cause insulin resistance within the cells by inhibiting glucose transport/phosphorylation. A much broader discussion of this is necessary to fully understand the process, however, the basic premise is that the accumulation of fat in the cells prevents the communication between insulin and blood sugar, therefore causing blood sugar to accumulate in the blood.
On a high fat and high sugar diet, you will most likely get an accumulation of blood sugar if you are not able to oxidize all of the fat eaten. Excess storage of fat is most likely an underlying factor in the development of diabetes, and now a possible contributing factor in the development of tooth decay.
This highlights the importance of following a low fat diet when consuming a high amount of carbohydrate foods, such as those found in fruit. The internal integrity of your teeth depends on the intricate balance of sugar in the blood. Providing the teeth with proper nutrition is now being researched as a mechanism of cavity prevention. It appears that the prevention of tooth decay may not be as simple as just the sugars in your mouth, but also the clearance of sugar in the bloodstream and thus the overall health of the body.