The Problem of Teeth; Disease of Over-Civilisation By Mrs Vera West

     Dr Weston Price (1870-1948), warned humanity that most modern Western dental problems were a product of the over-civilised diets of the West, high sugar, refined foods that did not exercise the jaw, and were unhealthy in themselves, especially refined white  sugar, the white death.  He studied native populations at the time of the early 20trh century, and found that they had healthy teeth, until eating Western high sugar diets, after which their dental health disintegrated, literally. Now it seems that the establishment is catching up to Dr Price:

“Our dental issues are not normal. Most other vertebrate creatures do not have the same dental problems that we do. They rarely have crooked teeth or cavities. Our fossil forebears did not have impacted wisdom teeth, and few appear to have had gum disease. Indeed, the teeth of modern-day humans are a profound contradiction. They are the hardest parts of our body yet are incredibly fragile. Although teeth endure for millions of years in the fossil record, ours cannot seem to last a lifetime in our mouths. Teeth gave our ancestors dominance over the organic world, yet today ours require special daily care to be maintained. The contradiction is new and is limited largely to industrial-age and contemporary populations. It is best explained by a mismatch between today’s diets and those for which our teeth and jaws evolved. Paleontologists have long understood that our teeth are deeply rooted in evolutionary history. Now clinical researchers and dental practitioners are also starting to take notice. To understand why the teeth of modern-day humans are so prone to decay, we need to consider the natural oral environment. The healthy mouth is teeming with life, populated by billions of microbes representing up to 700 different species of bacteria alone. Most are beneficial. They fight disease, help with digestion and regulate various bodily functions. Other bacteria are harmful to teeth, such as mutans streptococci and Lactobacillus. They attack enamel with lactic acid produced during their metabolism. But concentrations of these bacteria are usually too low to cause permanent damage. Their numbers are kept in check by their commensal cousins, the mitis and sanguinis streptococcal groups. These bacteria produce alkalis (chemicals that raise pH), as well as antimicrobial proteins that inhibit the growth of harmful species. Saliva buffers the teeth against acid attack and bathes them in calcium and phosphate to remineralize their surface. The balance between demineralization and remineralization has held for hundreds of millions of years, and both beneficial and harmful bacteria are found in oral microbiomes across the mammalian order. We evolved to maintain a stable community of microbes, as Kevin Foster of the University of Oxford and his colleagues have put it, to “keep the ecosystem on a leash.”

Caries results when the leash breaks. Diets rich in carbohydrates feed acid-producing bacteria, lowering oral pH. Mutans streptococci and other harmful species thrive in the acidic environment they produce, and they begin to swamp beneficial bacteria, further reducing pH. This chain of events leads to what clinical researchers call dysbiosis, a shift in balance wherein a few harmful species outcompete those that normally dominate the oral microbiome. Saliva cannot remineralize enamel fast enough to keep up, and the equilibrium between loss and repair is shot. Sucrose—common sugar—is especially problematic. Harmful bacteria use it to form a thick, sticky plaque that binds them to teeth and to store energy that feeds them between meals, meaning the teeth suffer longer exposure to acid attack. Bioarchaeologists have long suggested a link between caries and the transition from foraging to farming within the past 10,000 years or so during the Neolithic period because acid-producing bacteria consume fermentable carbohydrates, which abound in wheat, rice and corn. For example, studies of dental remains led by Clark Larsen of the Ohio State University found a more than sixfold increase in the incidence of caries with the adoption and spread of maize agriculture along the prehistoric Georgia coast. The link between tooth decay and agriculture is not that simple, though. Caries rate varies among early farmers over time and space, and the teeth of some hunter-gatherers, such as those with honey-rich diets, are riddled with cavities. The biggest jump in the caries rate came with the Industrial Revolution, which led to the widespread availability of sucrose and highly processed foods. In recent years researchers have conducted genetic studies of bacteria entombed in tartar on ancient teeth that document the ensuing transition in microbial communities. Processed foods are also softer and cleaner, setting up a perfect storm for caries: less chewing to cut the organic film and fewer dietary abrasives to wear away the nooks and crannies in teeth where plaque bacteria take refuge.”

     What can modern man do? Well, if you still have teeth, look after what you have, with regular cleaning, after every meal. My own belief is that too much brush friction could harm the gums, so during the day only,  I tend to rinse my mouth out, use a tooth pick and dental floss to get food particles out from between my teeth, and reduce acid levels, maybe with a stick of sugar-free gum, like a sailor, to get the protective saliva flowing. And then, I hope for the best. For most of us, the better teeth days are behind us now.



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Sunday, 21 July 2024

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