The $4 billion dental care package announced this week – said to help millions of young and low-income Australians is merely a bandaid solution.
Dentists have welcomed the Federal Government’s dental care package and millions of children and low-income patients will be able to visit the dentist for free. Yes it’s a welcome move when you consider that more than half of all six-year olds have decayed teeth. “We have basically got to a point where we are looking at Third World conditions in a country like Australia,” Consumer Health Forum chief executive Carol Bennett told The Age.
Oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups with risk factors including an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, poor oral hygiene, and social determinants. While the recently announced dental care package is to be applauded, attention needs to be paid to the causes of decay and preventative measures adopted, if we are to address the nation’s appalling dental health.
But first an understanding of teeth, history and the effects of our modern diets is needed.
Teeth are actually able to heal themselves. That’s how traditional cultures such as the Inuit can wear their teeth down to the pulp due to chewing leather and sand-covered dried fish, yet still have an exceptionally low rate of tooth decay. It’s also how the African Wakamba tribe can file their front teeth into sharp points without causing decay. Both cultures lost their resistance to tooth decay after adopting nutrient-poor Western foods such as white flour and sugar.
Teeth consist of four layers with the enamel layer being the hardest and most mineralised. Well formed enamel is vital and when the diet is inadequate this outer layer dissolves and decay occurs. But fortunately this situation can be reversed and the tooth can heal itself. Such restoration takes place at the Pulp layer which contain cells called odontoblasts able to form new dentin but only if the diet is high in minerals, rich in fat-soluble vitamins (including D), and low in phytic acid.
In Cure Tooth Decay, Ramiel Nagel writes that tooth decay is a nutritional problem. When his daughter’s teeth began to decay at around the age of one, Nagel was at a loss as to what do or who to see, and set about understanding the process of tooth decay. Until now, Nagel had believed that tooth decay occurred when bacteria fed on sugars left on teeth producing harmful decay-causing acids. However after reading the research of two dentists -Dr Weston Price and Dr Melvin Page, he began to understand the true nature of tooth decay; the result of a biochemical disturbance of the calcium-phosphorus ratio. With our less than optimum diets, minerals are lost from our mouths to be used by vital organs and the result is tooth decay.
If Stephan Guyenet, blogger and health researcher were to design the ultimate dietary program to heal cavities that incorporates the successes of both doctors, it would look something like this:
Rich in animal foods, particularly full-fat pastured dairy products (if tolerated). Also meat, organs, fish, bone broths and eggs.
Fermented grains only; no unfermented grains such as oatmeal, breakfast cereal, crackers, etc.
No breads except true sourdough (ingredients should not list lactic acid). Or even better, no grains at all.
Limited nuts; beans in moderation, only if they’re soaked overnight or longer in warm water (due to the phytic acid).
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
A limited quantity of fruit (one piece per day or less), but no refined sweets.
Cooked and raw vegetables.
Sunlight, high-vitamin cod liver oil or vitamin D3 supplements.
A generous amount of pastured butter.
And no industrially processed food.
Unless we have an understanding of the true nature of tooth decay and address our deficient diets we will continue to have tooth decay and need to spend billions of public dollars fixing up our teeth.