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The Dental Diet + How Many Teeth Do We Need?

Fun fact: People who have 25 or more teeth tend to eat more nutritiously. Why? The more “complete” your teeth are, the more you can effectively break down different fruit and veggie textures. Among the 32 (we should all be born with) are are 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, and 12 molars (including 4 wisdom teeth). They all have slightly different functions so they are all important although it’s obviously possible to function with less.

But how much less?

According to Dr. Bryan Limmer:

Since “the vast majority of people in the United States have their 4 wisdom teeth (or 3rd Molars) extracted as teenagers, the average American [has] a complement of 28 teeth.”

[So] the short answer is no, not every tooth that is lost needs to be replaced.  However, when a dentist sees a new patient with a number of missing teeth, it can be difficult to determine just how many that particular patient needs to feel that they can chew ‘better’. This is particularly challenging when one considers the cost of various prosthetic options.” (source)

So, that leaves most of us on average a total 3 teeth to “gamble” with throughout our adult lives.

Oh, and about those wisdom teeth:

Although formally known as third molars, the common name is wisdom teeth because they appear so late – much later than the other teeth, at an age where people are presumably “wiser” than as a child, when the other teeth erupt. The term probably came as a translation of the Latin dens sapientiae. Their eruption has been known to cause dental issues for centuries, it was noted at least as far back as Aristotle

Although I currently have all 32 teeth, that has not come without a scare or 2, including the common kid catastrophes plus a few “adult situations” such as several surfboards to the face, LOL.

My biggest tooth scare was when a skin medication started to strip the enamel off of my teeth. After the toxins in the air began to break out my skin while living in NYC during 9/11 I started to take an antibiotic. After a few months, I began to see little chips in my teeth. Although I immediately stopped the medication, my teeth have never really “recovered.”

So other than the above, I am in pretty good teeth shape and I brush them anywhere from 1-3 times a day.

Nevertheless, I’ve run a few tooth trials over the years, including oil pulling, the classic baking soda + peroxide and perhaps the oldest of them all, using a young branch from a neem tree as a toothbrush, Ayurveda style. (Awful tasting yet effective)

I recently took a visit to the dentist, for a check-up and a cleaning. I hadn’t been in a while so needless to say I was a little scared. No matter how much I take care of myself, there is always a sense of anxiety when I get checked out by an expert. They see things that the untrained eye may not.

What about them? Well according to Dr. Mario, we are consuming more toxins from the vegetables we eat than we ever would from the fillings. He told me not to worry about it – but I still am as I’ve heard too many conflicting stories. Watch this space as I to continue to do more research and feel free to leave some info in the comments below!

Now let’s check out what he’s more worried about when it comes to my mouth.

 

What I’m Doing Wrong

Not flossing enough.

Since I am a grazer I eat continuously between brushings so I had some plaque problems from food between my teeth. In fact after my cleaning, certain parts of my teeth felt so great, in fact, my tongue is now a bit sore from rubbing my clean teeth. I know…weird.

Not brushing behind my wisdom teeth enough.

My wisdom teeth never hurt so I never had them removed… but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to take care of them…which I haven’t. I’ve been ordered to spend 15 seconds back there, brushing each side thoroughly as it’s the perfect place for cavities to form.  

Brushing downward, instead of upward.

The older we get the more our gums recede so brushing downward speeds up this terrible process. I never knew that..

 

More tooth tips from around the web

Although the tips above were specifically for me, there are a number of do’s and dont’s that all of us could learn from.

Avoid staining foods like red wine, coffee and high acid foods like lemon and lime.

Fresh fruit juice although delicious, contains acids that erode enamel. A simple squeeze of lemon or lime in your water on a regular basis plus juice can make your teeth more susceptible over time so be sure to pace it out and drink plenty of water.

Stay away from the sticky

Just like fresh fruit, dried fruit is can be dangerous if not done in moderation. Sticky foods can damage your teeth since they tend to stay on the teeth longer than other types of food.

Chill out on the ice.

Although it’s just water, chewing on hard substances like ice can leave your teeth vulnerable to a dental emergency and damage enamel.

Move away from the meds.

Certain antibiotics (like the ones I took, and stopped taking) can have side effects that may affect tooth enamel. If you see a problem happening with your teeth see your doctor immediately.

Keep your mouth immunity up.

Our digestive tracts begin in the mouth so it only makes sense that the tongue is just as important. The cleaner the body the less likely for things like canker sores and bad breath to happen.

Brush your tongue.

At the end of the day the tongue is the beginning of the digestive system and should be treated accordingly. Invest in a tongue scraper or simply use a small spoon.

Ditch the straw.

Did you know that you should actually never use a straw to sip your smoothie? The motion of “chewing” your smoothie activates enzymes in your salivary glands that aids in digestion.

Plus ditching straws helps to save the tons of turtles and other aquatic life that suffer from our trash, better yet reuse them or invest in a glass straw. Check them out in my Amazon Shop.

 

The Dental Diet

Dental health is more important than we normally realize, obviously the most important being that we need to chew our food.

The state of our teeth and gums can often signal systemic problems, including cardiovascular disease, celiac disease, diabetes, sinus infection, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux, alcoholism, and more. In fact, your dentist can sometimes diagnose these conditions before your doctor!

If our eyes are a window to the soul, our teeth and gums are a window to our bodies.

Below are a few key foods and nutrients and how they help keep your teeth tip top.

 

Green Tea

Green tea contains a compound called polyphenol, which research has shown may slow the growth of bacteria associated with both cavities and gum disease. Drinking green tea also helps decrease inflammation, inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria and freshens breath.

Go Raw

Crisp and raw produce like carrots, apples, celery, and bell peppers can clean your teeth by removing food debris that has adhered to the surface of your teeth, plus green leafy vegetables – like kale, spinach, and broccoli. These calcium rich foods help promote strong teeth and bones.

Probiotics

Probiotics may help to decrease gingivitis and plaque; bacteria in fermented foods might suppress the growth of pathogens in the oral cavity.

Cranberries

Cranberries and other plant foods rich in anthocyanins (such as blueberries, red cabbage and raspberries) may prevent pathogens on host tissues (including teeth). Some studies even show that cranberry extract-infused mouthwash improves dental health.

Green Tea

Polyphenols have been known to reduce bacteria and toxic products of bacteria in the mouth. Tea also tends to be rich in fluoride, possibly the most well-known tooth strengthener.

Green tea is rich in antioxidant flavonoids and also has powerful antibacterial properties. It has low acidity and promotes remineralization of tooth enamel, making it a good addition to a diet for promoting oral health. Green tea has a long history of use in Chinese medicine where it had a broad range of uses, in fact, there’s not a lot that green tea isn’t good for. Try using powdered “matcha tea”, which you can add to yogurt or smoothies. It has more antioxidants than normal green tea!

Onions?!?!

Chewing onions for just 2-3 minutes will help to balance the bacteria in your mouth. Russian doctors recommended that eating one raw onion a day will protect you from a host of dental problems.

 

Nutrient What you need it for
Protein Tooth structure, mucosal/connective tissue development, and immune function.
Calcium Tooth structure; may enhance enamel remineralization.
Phosphorus Tooth structure.
Zinc Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Antioxidants Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Folate Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; low levels are associated with periodontal disease.
Iron Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Vitamin A Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function. But be aware that getting too much from supplements may result in gum problems.
Vitamin C Collagen maturation and to maintain the integrity of the periodontal ligament; mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Omega-3 fats Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; modulates the inflammatory response.
Vitamin D Mucosal/connective tissues, immune function; may enhance enamel remineralization.
B vitamins Epithelial cell turnover.

 

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