In a recent documentary on PBS, two graduates of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism found a near epidemic of cavities in rural areas. The explanation they came up with was that, in part, it was due to a lack of knowledge and practice of dental hygiene. But how does that explain the New York Times article about a rise in surgery for toddlers due to cavities? One can understand a near epidemic in rural El Salvador due to a lack of knowledge about dental hygiene but what would be the reason in the United States where the need for brushing our teeth is so well known? The Berkeley journalists were on the right track with their report. They tied the increase in cavities not only to the lack of knowledge, but also to the invasion of junk food, literally by the semi-truck-full, into rural communities by companies from the United States.
This may seem like new information, but that’s what Dr. Weston A. Price, researcher and dentist, had known for years. In the 1930s he studied isolated tribes around the world and his findings, published in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, make our current headlines old news. Dental hygiene (brushing, flossing, trips to the dentist) cannot be the only issue.
If Dr. Price were here today, and someone suggested that the epidemic-type occurrence of cavities in children were due to a lack of flossing and brushing, his response would be a definite No! —These people (referring to the isolated tribes) never flossed, they never brushed their teeth, and their teeth were in better dental condition, with close to zero dental caries (which is the technical word for cavities) compared to what we have today. What you should be doing is eating better!
That doesn’t mean that brushing your teeth isn’t necessary. Even if you do follow a nutritionally sound diet, modern-day farming techniques have depleted our soils of their nutrients, causing once nutritionally dense foods to be somewhat deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. Therefore, your dental health might not be as sound as those of the tribes that Dr. Price studied in spite of adherence to proper diet. Price-Pottenger recommends that you still brush, floss and if possible use a water pick to maintain your dental health.
However, good dental practices will not prevent tooth decay in a nutritionally deficient diet. What you eat matters more than you think. Junk food, lately imported into El Salvador and common in the U.S., is doing a number on children’s teeth…and our own. One of the worst is soda. That’s a double whammy. Not only is it full of sugar, it’s full of acid. Do you remember the science experiment where you put a tooth into a glass of soda? Yes, the tooth eventually dissolved in the soda. The high phosphorous level in soda also inhibits calcium absorption, so while the soda is damaging the tooth enamel it is also interfering with the assimilation of this mineral that is essential for building strong bones and teeth. So, why would we allow our kids to bathe their teeth in it on a regular basis?
Almost as bad as junk food and soda is fruit juice. One typical twelve-ounce serving of 100% pure, organic fruit juice contains an average of 8.25 to 13.5 teaspoons of sugar. Your body may absorb some nutrients from the beverage but the damage done to your body and teeth from the sugar content outweighs any possible health benefits. The healthy tribes studied by Dr. Price ate small amounts of fruit. It was IN SEASON (not year ‘round – that’s right, you do not need fruit year ‘round unless your ancestors came from the tropics), that was RIPE, locally grown, and naturally organic. These tribes did not drink fruit juice. When a tribesperson was thirsty, he or she would drink water!
If we want to give our children’s teeth (and their overall health, for that matter) a boost in the right direction, help them out by providing healthy snacks and drinks…low in sugar, low in carbohydrates (which are often metabolized as sugar by the body), and definitely decrease, or better yet, eliminate soda. And, in the meantime, do it for yourself, too.