Science Meets Ancient Wisdom - The Pillars of a Strong Jaw

In today's world, the prevalence of dental issues — from cavities and gum disease to misalignments and tooth decay — is often accepted as a normal part of life. How couldn’t it be, when over 90% of adults and over 50% of children have cavities and tooth decay, or when over 40% of adults have gum disease? Dental issues must be normal given how common they are.

However, this perspective overlooks a crucial historical truth: our ancestors, who lived without modern dental practices or technologies, typically exhibited remarkable dental health.

Renowned researcher Weston A. Price's extensive studies in the early 20th century highlighted this phenomenon. Traveling to isolated parts of the globe over 10 years, Price observed indigenous populations consuming traditional diets devoid of processed foods, and he documented their nearly perfect dental health — strong, well-formed jaws, minimal tooth decay, and almost no incidence of the chronic oral diseases rampant in modern societies.

These findings point to a powerful conclusion: humans are designed to have excellent dental health, which is attainable when we live in alignment with our evolutionary biology. Our ancestors' diets were rich in nutrients essential for oral and overall health, including vitamins A, D, and K2, minerals like calcium and phosphorus, and a balance of omega fatty acids. These nutrients, derived from whole animal foods, supported not only their dental health but also their general physical resilience.

Furthermore, the ancestral lifestyle involved natural behaviors that promote dental health, such as extensive chewing of fibrous foods, which stimulated jaw development and helped maintain the alignment of teeth. This constant engagement of the jaw and teeth in their natural functions — breaking down tough foods — ensured that their oral structures developed fully and remained robust throughout their lives.

Today, the disconnect between our modern lifestyle and these evolutionary patterns contributes to the dental ailments we experience. The soft, processed diets common in contemporary society require less chewing, which leads to underdeveloped jaws and crowded teeth, while high sugar and acid consumption promotes decay. Additionally, our modern environments often limit exposure to natural sunlight, reducing our natural production of Vitamin D3, crucial for calcium absorption and bone health.

By embracing the wisdom of our ancestors and aligning our lifestyles more closely with evolutionary biology, we can reclaim the dental health that is our natural inheritance. This ebook introduces the Straw Jaw Tenets — six core principles based on ancestral health practices and modern scientific understanding that guide us back to the path of optimal oral well-being.

  1. Nutrition: Animal-based diet rich in fat-soluble vitamins and numerous minerals.
  2. Sunlight: Ample sun exposure for vitamin D, nitric oxide, and mitochondrial function.
  3. Mechanical Loading: Regular engagement of the jaw through chewing tough, fibrous foods to stimulate jaw development and alignment.
  4. Nasal Breathing: Proper breathing techniques that support the oral microbiome and overall dental alignment.
  5. pH Balance and Saliva: Maintaining a balanced oral environment to foster natural protective mechanisms against decay.
  6. Protecting the Mouth: Guarding against physical impacts and avoiding harmful substances and practices that compromise oral integrity.

Nutrition

When it comes to dental health, some of the best research was done by Weston A. Price, who meticulously documented his landmark work in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

He revealed a compelling correlation between traditional "nose to tail" eating practices and the remarkable oral health of indigenous people. The issue, he determined, wasn’t what people were eating, but what they weren’t.

After spending several years approaching this problem by both clinical and laboratory research methods, I interpreted the accumulating evidence as strongly indicating the absence of some essential factors from our modern program, rather than the presence of injurious factors.

Price determined that the indigenous diets successful in controlling cavities and deformities could be divided into three groups based upon where the people derived most of their minerals and fat-soluble activators (now known to be fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2).

  1. Dairy products
  2. Organs of animals
  3. Seafoods

Most of the indigenous tribes used foods from two or more of the three categories. While most groups also consumed a variety of plant foods, mainly fruits and tubers, good dental health (and physical health in general) relied mostly on the consumption of animal products.

It is significant that I have as yet found no group that was building and maintaining good bodies exclusively on plant foods. A number of groups are endeavoring to do so with marked evidence of failure. The variety of animal foods available has varied widely in some groups, and been limited among others.

This is why I can’t sit by and watch more of these people devastate their mouth by abstaining from our ancestral foods and the fundamentally important nutrients they provide. Vegan diets have been associated with worse dental health, such as demineralization of enamel, gum lesions, and visual white spots.

From an evolutionary perspective, the human diet has undergone significant transformations, with the agricultural and industrial revolutions introducing processed foods and refined sugars that were absent in the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. As Price noted, wherever traditional foods were displaced by modern ones, the teeth and gums (and physical structure) of the indigenous peoples suffered.

Our physiological systems, including our teeth and gums, evolved to thrive on the complex nutritional profiles provided by a diverse "nose to tail" diet. Our ancestors knew this. Modern indigenous tribes people know this. Yet, such wisdom is lost on the Western man.

Weston A. Price used this information to reverse cavities in children who regularly ate a typical Western diet — sugar, refined flours, and seed oils. Here’s how:

...a teaspoonful of a mixture of equal parts of a very high vitamin natural cod liver oil and an especially high vitamin butter was given at the beginning of the meal. They then received a bowl containing approximately a pint of a very rich vegetable and meat stew, made largely from bone marrow and fine cuts of tender meat... Each child was also given two glasses of fresh whole milk. The menu was varied from day to day by substituting for the meat stew, fish chowder or organs of animals.

Another critical observation that Price made was the conditions that food was produced. In his analyses of the foods being eaten by indigenous humans, the nutrient content was upwards of 10-fold higher than that found in modern society, and this was entirely due to what those animals were feeding on.

Still another problem confronts us, i.e., the sources of fat soluble activators indicated above, namely: dairy products, organs of animals and sea foods, may vary through a wide range in their content of the fat-soluble activators or vitamins, depending upon the nutrition available for the animals.

Dairy, eggs, organs, and the flesh of animals (including seafoods) are all richest in nutrients when the animals supplying such sustenance are allowed to exist in the natural environment from which it evolved. This means wide open pastures rich in the grasses, flowers, bugs, worms, seeds, and grains that livestock animals thrive on. It also means soil dense in the minerals and microbes these plants need themselves to thrive.

Dairy

Dairy hasn't always been a part of the human diet outside of breast milk during infancy. However, with the domestication of milk-producing animals around 10,000 years ago, dairy became a new, nutrient-rich food source for adults and children as well. This adaptation marked a significant evolutionary step for humans, allowing us to derive a host of nutritional benefits from animal milk long after weaning. The nutrient density and health benefits of dairy led it to become a staple in many indigenous diets.

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are packed with essential nutrients that help keep your teeth and gums healthy. They’re a great source of calcium and phosphorus, the main minerals in your teeth and bones. Calcium strengthens the enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth that protects them from decay and wear. Phosphorus teams up with calcium to help rebuild tooth enamel and keep your teeth strong.

Dairy is also loaded with important fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A, for example, keeps the lining of your mouth healthy and boosts saliva production, which helps fight off acid attacks on your teeth. Some dairy products, especially fermented ones like cheese, contain Vitamin K2. This vitamin works with Vitamin D to make sure calcium goes into your teeth and bones where it’s needed, instead of building up where it shouldn’t.

Lastly, one of the key ways dairy promotes dental health is through its bioactive peptides, such as casein phosphopeptide, lactoferrin, lysozyme, and lactoperoxidase. These substances are more than just nutrients; they actively participate in maintaining and enhancing oral health.

  • Casein phosphopeptide plays a crucial role in stabilizing calcium and phosphate ions in saliva, which helps protect and rebuild tooth enamel. Drinking milk remineralizes teeth, but drinking milk with added casein phosphopeptide has an even greater benefit.
  • Lactoferrin has antibacterial properties, effectively inhibiting the growth of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Lysozyme and lactoperoxidase further contribute to this protective effect by breaking down the cell walls of harmful bacteria, thereby reducing their ability to colonize the mouth.

In an analysis of over 12,000 US adults, consuming over four servings of dairy per day was associated with a 20% lower likelihood of periodontitis (gum disease). In children, consuming more than just ½ cup of yogurt was associated with a 34% lower likelihood of having cavities.

Cheese is a particularly tooth-friendly food. A number of studies have shown that it can help restore lost enamel through neutralizing acids (buffering), boosting saliva production, preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth, reducing the loss of minerals from enamel, and helping to add minerals back into the enamel.

In one study, chewing cheese for one minute after swishing with sugar water reduced demineralization by 71%, made the mouth more alkaline, and increased saliva production. In another study, eating unsweetened cheese after a period of enamel softening by an acidic beverage didn’t just neutralize the acids, but actually rehardened the enamel, an effect believed to be owed to the uptake of calcium and phosphorus ions directly from the interaction of the teeth and the cheese.

A study of dental students also reported that eating cheese and yogurt (but especially cheese) led to significant increases in plaque pH (indicating greater alkalinity / less acidity) and the concentration of calcium and phosphorus within plaque. The concentration of calcium and phosphorus in plaque is crucial because these minerals are also found in the enamel of our teeth, which is made up of hydroxyapatite crystals. If the plaque next to the tooth has lots of calcium and phosphorus at a certain acidity level (pH), the tooth enamel won't lose minerals and may even remineralize.

Organ Meats

Organ meats, such as liver, heart, and bone marrow, have been integral to human diets for millennia, offering a wealth of nutrients essential for robust dental health (and health in general). They provide every nutrient the body needs to function optimally, essentially being nature’s multivitamin.

Deficiencies in certain nutrients are particularly important for dental health. These include folate and other B vitamins, vitamins A, D, and K2, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Not getting enough of these nutrients can affect almost every part of the mouth, leading to weak enamel, poor mineralization of teeth, cavities, and gum disease.

Organ meats are rich in all of these essential nutrients.

They are the one food that most people would stand to benefit from eating more of, especially liver and bone marrow. Roughly one-third of adults have at least one biochemical vitamin or mineral deficiency, and more than half aren’t consuming even the bare minimum requirements for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as minerals like magnesium, zinc, and calcium.

That’s expected when our diet is so far removed from our evolutionary heritage. When excluding nutrient-dense organs, obtaining sufficient nutrition is nearly impossible. You end up with researchers coming to absurd conclusions like “food alone may not provide sufficient micronutrients for preventing deficiency,” or that someone would need to consume 18,000 calories per day to ensure an adequate intake of all essential vitamins and minerals.

Just add liver and bone marrow.

A comprehensive global food composition database analysis for nutrient density in those nutrients which people are typically missing out on found that organ meats were at the top of the list, especially liver, spleen, kidney, and heart. The only thing they didn’t really provide was a lot of calcium, which you can easily get from dairy or fish with bones.

This issue goes far deeper than you might think. Bruce Ames, an American biochemist, has done extensive research to show how not getting enough nutrients throughout life can lead to the breakdown of mitochondria (the metabolic hubs of our cells) and result in degenerative diseases. He called his ideas "Triage Theory."

According to this theory, when nutrients are limited, the body prioritizes using them for immediate survival rather than for maintaining long-term health. It describes insufficiency of nutrients rather than full-blown deficiency. Many people get just enough vitamins and minerals to avoid these noticeable deficiencies, but this minimal intake isn't enough to support all the body’s processes that keep us healthy. As a result, people might not show immediate signs of a deficiency, but over time, this lack of nutrients can contribute to subtle health issues that develop into more serious, degenerative diseases as they age.

And that includes dental issues like cavities, gum disease, oral cancers, and so forth.

Seafood

Seafood is another cornerstone of a diet that promotes strong teeth and healthy gums. Rich in a variety of nutrients crucial for dental health, seafood offers unique benefits not as readily available from other food sources.

One of the standout features of seafoods are their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, found abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. These fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which can help reduce the inflammation associated with gum disease.

Those with the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids are at a 15–22% lower risk of developing periodontal disease, and a systematic review of 8 randomized controlled trials lasting at least three months found that every study reported a significant benefit from EPA and DHA supplementation in those with gingivitis — less gingival severity, smaller probing depths, and less attachment loss to teeth. Basically, healthier gums.

In other research, higher intakes of fatty fish is associated with less gingival inflammation, a lower risk of developing periodontitis, and better gum health overall. An analysis of skeletons from thousands of years ago concluded that those who relied most heavily on fish for sustenance had the lowest rates of cavities, abscessing, and tooth loss.

All types of seafood, especially those in which you eat the bones (like sardines or mackerel), are a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin D, which is important when living at higher latitudes due to poor sunlight availability throughout the year. They also supply ample B-vitamins and minerals, including calcium and phosphorus if you eat the bones.

Sunlight

Sunlight plays a crucial role in bolstering oral health, primarily through its ability to stimulate the production of vitamin D in the body. However, the benefits of sunlight extend beyond vitamin D synthesis, involving various bioactive components of light that contribute to overall health and well-being.

In the modern world, we villainize sunshine and take extreme measures to avoid it, including staying inside all day — we live in boxes we call homes, get into boxes we call cars, get into a box we call the office or classroom, and then do it in reverse. If we do go outside, we cover ourselves head-to-toe, apply chemical-laden sunblock (with hormone-disrupting chemicals), and wear subprimal sunglasses (that disrupt our circadian rhythms).

Unbeknownst to the population at large, the sun is required for virtually all forms of life, and is as nourishing as any food. The only problem is, you can’t get these vital signaling mechanisms anywhere else, but the sun. It plays a pivotal role in immuno-regulatory functions, stimulates anti-inflammatory pathways, induces nitric oxide production, and regulates healthy metabolic pathways, all involved in dental and bone health, chronic and recurrent decay, receding gums (bone loss), and gum disease.

We’ve known since at least 1939 that cavity rates were inversely related to average levels of sunlight exposure. Those living in the southwest part of the US, where they enjoy about 3,000 hours of sunlight each year, have half as many cavities as those in the less sunny northeast, where sunlight only reaches less than 2,200 hours per year. Places with sunlight hours in between these two extremes also have cavity rates that fall in between.

International data further shows that the prevalence of dental diseases increases as we move further from the equator, with the primary difference between geographical locations being the extent of sun exposure. In Australia, where sun exposure is high pretty much everywhere, the best dental health is seen in those living most north, closest to the equator.

Even within the state of Oregon, those living in the central region where sun exposure is greatest throughout the year have fewer cavities than those living in areas with less sun exposure. This cavity-sunshine disparity has also been noted when comparing western Oregon with the sunnier Eastern Oregon, using the Cascade Mountains as the point of division.

When researchers plot the dental health of US military personnel from different states against the average sun exposure (measured by dose of ultraviolet radiation) in July, there’s a striking relationship between increasing sun exposure and improved dental health. The association isn’t perfect, of course, because there are many factors to dental health, but it is strong.

https://lh7-us.googleusercontent.com/docsz/AD_4nXcaQOqOCPya474j-8HO06JkJQSAK7wH22whrcQg-bmqzo5GwQcAhlV6vIyRyz-MaGB-VmNX0jYVVkXDJt7y6uicFSt-89ftBF41E89SiRBo3R-p5Tj3ZBC3-5-X8mnzxne7WMFDAN6zoG0Ao2vBZMgl3K7h?key=6SiFymMfM60bCKBk8REq8g

There’s so much more to the sun than meets the eye, and there’s just no supplement to replace the primal nourishment that signals the life force within us; however, if you live in a latitude that doesn’t offer a sun buffet, I got you.

  • Get early morning sun through the eyes, on the face, on the skin
  • Get sensible mid-day sunshine every day (start low, grow slow, and don’t burn).
  • Start with 15 minutes and work your way up slowly
  • Use the free DMinder app to track and measure UV exposure relative to latitude

Different latitudes have different sunrises and weather patterns. As long as you're getting out and about, I assure you that it's geometrically brighter outside than inside, and you’re getting most of what you need to thrive. Alternatives when you don’t have regular access to sun include things like full UV sun simulator panels, red and near-infrared light, nitric oxide dumps, and vitamin D supplementation (hint, never supplement w/ vitamin D without K2)!

UVB and Vitamin D

One of the primary mechanisms through which sunlight builds a strong jaw and flawless teeth is through promoting the synthesis of vitamin D within our skin. When ultraviolet type-B (UVB) radiation penetrates our skin, it stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D, which enters our blood to be used by the rest of our body.

More specifically, the vitamin D travels to the liver where it is converted into calcidiol, the major circulating reservoir of vitamin D that we use to measure vitamin D status. Calcidiol then travels to the kidney to be transformed into the most biologically active form of vitamin D, calcitriol.

Vitamin D is vital for maintaining the strength and health of our teeth, providing multiple benefits that go beyond simple calcium absorption. It plays a significant role in several areas of dental health, particularly in enhancing tooth strength, preventing decay, and reducing the incidence of cavities.

Two separate meta-analyses, one involving children and adults and another involving adolescents, have also found a clear and consistent link between vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency and risk of dental cavities.

Compared to having a vitamin D status of 20 to 30 ng/mL, having levels above 30 ng/mL were associated with a 16% reduction in the number of decayed teeth, whereas having levels less than 20 ng/mL was associated with a 14–46% increase in the number of decayed teeth.

In other research, compared to having vitamin D levels above 30 ng/mL, the likelihood of having cavities was 43% greater in those with levels of 20–30 ng/mL and 2.5-fold greater in those with severe deficiency of less than 12 ng/mL. When vitamin D was analyzed as a continuous variable, there was a clear linear association between increasing levels and lower likelihood of developing cavities, with benefits continuing all the way up to above 80 ng/mL.

https://lh7-us.googleusercontent.com/docsz/AD_4nXclOChST95Jl4qe89-cVa1wL_C1lBlqLyiB8MXFOii9ZzWIvawse-GoFTF_-FZAu3cMTz-X1QtgW9WhrTJcXkpTBU_6wlzzbYWo3z6mosg4WQnB1SBsVJqpffrxFDcfBncUbOCknqe4nJCvCQN7p6_YGJQ?key=6SiFymMfM60bCKBk8REq8g

A meta-analysis of 24 controlled clinical trials investigating how vitamin D supplementation impacts the risk of dental cavities in children found significant benefits — a 49% lower risk of cavities with vitamin D3 supplementation and a 64% lower risk with ultraviolet radiation therapy.

Vitamin D is essential for the process of mineralization — where minerals such as calcium and phosphate are deposited into the tooth enamel, the hard, protective outer layer of our teeth. This process not only strengthens the enamel but also repairs it from minor damages and wear over time. Strong enamel is less susceptible to erosion, which is a common precursor to cavities and tooth decay.

These effects are not simply due to vitamin D increasing calcium absorption, but also from a direct action of vitamin D within the tooth. Vitamin D signaling boosts the production of key proteins that handle calcium and help build the essential components of teeth, such as enamel and dentin. These proteins are crucial for forming and maintaining strong teeth, ensuring that the outer layer and underlying structures are robust and healthy.

Tooth decay occurs when harmful acids produced by bacteria in the mouth eat away at the enamel. Vitamin D's role in promoting calcium and phosphate uptake helps ensure that teeth have enough minerals to resist these acid attacks. Furthermore, vitamin D possesses antimicrobial properties that help manage the populations of bacteria in the mouth. By reducing harmful bacteria, vitamin D helps prevent the conditions that lead to tooth decay.

Moreover, vitamin D's anti-inflammatory properties contribute to healthier gums, which are essential for supporting strong teeth. Healthy gums tightly seal around the teeth, protecting the roots and reducing the likelihood of cavities forming below the gumline.

Inflammation of the tissue around the teeth is called periodontitis, often causing shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth. Two meta-analyses have reported that those with periodontitis have significantly lower vitamin D levels than those with healthy gums and that supplementation with vitamin D may improve clinical outcomes during periodontal treatment.

From an evolutionary perspective, it's likely that we evolved with vitamin D concentrations similar to indigenous tribes in Africa: 25–68 ng/mL, with an average of ~45 ng/mL. These values line up well with the research discussed herein where the best outcomes were seen with a vitamin D status greater than 30 ng/mL and possibly as high as 80 ng/dL.

UVA and Nitric Oxide

While UVB radiation is well-known for its role in vitamin D synthesis, ultraviolet type-A (UVA) radiation also offers significant health benefits, particularly through its ability to stimulate the production of nitric oxide. This lesser-known process has implications not just for general health but also specifically for oral health.

When skin is exposed to UVA radiation, nitrogen-carrying precursor molecules in the skin spontaneously transform into nitric oxide, which is then released into the bloodstream. Nitric oxide enhances blood circulation, which is crucial for delivering nutrients and oxygen to various parts of the body, including the gums and oral tissues.

Increased blood flow to the gums promotes healthier gums and enhances the health of the oral cavity in several ways:

  • Nutrient Delivery: Improved circulation ensures that more nutrients and oxygen reach the gums and teeth. This supports the health of the oral tissues and aids in the maintenance and repair of the gums and teeth.
  • Disease Prevention: Enhanced blood flow helps in the removal of toxins and waste products from the gums. This can reduce the risk of gum disease, which is often linked to the buildup of harmful bacteria and inflammation.
  • Healing and Repair: Better blood circulation speeds up the healing process in the oral cavity, which is beneficial following dental procedures or injury. Faster healing reduces the risk of infections and complications.

Besides improving circulation, nitric oxide has potent antimicrobial properties. It plays a role in the body’s immune response by helping to fight off pathogens, including those that can cause cavities. By controlling harmful bacteria in the mouth, nitric oxide contributes to a healthier oral microbiome and prevents conditions such as gum disease and tooth decay.

Red and Near-infrared Light

Red and near-infrared light affect the body at a cellular level. These wavelengths are particularly effective in stimulating mitochondrial activity, which is crucial for energy production within cells. By enhancing mitochondrial function, cells can repair themselves more efficiently and regenerate faster. This is particularly beneficial in the oral cavity, where cells need to continually regenerate to maintain gum health and heal from injuries or surgeries.

One of the most notable benefits of red and near-infrared light therapy in dental care is its ability to speed up the healing process. This is especially useful following dental procedures such as extractions, implants, or surgeries, helping tissues to heal faster, lessen pain and discomfort, and reduce the risk of infection.

These wavelengths can also improve the health of the gums by increasing circulation and reducing inflammation. This can help in treating and preventing gum disease, a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Such effects help explain why red and near-infrared light therapy reduce disease severity in those with burning mouth syndrome.

Although all of these studies used artificial sources of red and near-infrared light, the amount of exposure is well-within what can be achieved by building a lifestyle around smart sun exposure habits. Early morning and late afternoon are ideal for exposure, as the sun’s rays are less intense and the proportion of red to ultraviolet light is higher compared to midday.

The red and near-infrared light will have no problem penetrating every tooth and gum socket in your mouth. Give the sun a smile for extra benefit.

Blue Light and Circadian Rhythms

Blue light plays a pivotal role in regulating our circadian rhythms, the natural internal processes that cycle roughly every 24 hours and govern our sleep-wake patterns, hormone release, eating habits, and other bodily functions. Sunlight is the de facto signal for daytime that our brain relies on to tell time accurately.

Disruptions in circadian rhythms can lead to various dental health issues. Several studies strongly suggest that dental mineralized tissue formation is under the control of complex biological clocks, as is the gum tissue surrounding our teeth.

Circadian rhythms of saliva (flow rate and composition) have been known since at least the 1970s. Individuals with periodontitis have a significantly blunted circadian rhythm in salivary flow rate and antioxidant defenses compared to those with healthy gums, impairing their ability to neutralize acids and fight off bacteria involved in tooth decay.

Children with short sleep durations (less than 8 hours per night) have a 49% greater risk of cavities. An analysis of over 5,000 adults also found that sleep was linked to cavities — those getting more than 7 hours per night were at nearly half the risk of having cavities as those sleeping less than 7 hours.

Other evidence has suggested that circadian dysregulation aggravates periodontitis through reducing the expression of BMAL1, which exacerbates oxidative stress and cell death in gum tissue. Teenagers who report being night-owls have a nearly 4-fold greater risk of cavities than those who report being morning types.

Moreover, improper or irregular exposure to natural light can impair immune function, making the body less effective at combating gum infections and controlling inflammation. Maintaining a regular exposure to natural blue light during daytime helps strengthen the immune defenses within the oral cavity, potentially reducing the incidence of periodontal diseases and oral infections.

Chew Hard Food and Load Your Jaw

A strong jaw comes from hard work... tearing meat, crunching vegetables, chewing your damn food. One of agriculture's biggest slights against us Sapiens was replacing our ancestral diets with “soft” grains and sugars. Use it or lose it, right?

Our dental decay started with agriculture.

Dr. David Katz from the University of California, Davis looked at the influence of diet on 600 preindustrial forager and farmer skulls from around the world, characterizing skull structure with 3-D imaging. There were clear differences between foragers and farmers, with skulls of farmers having narrower and shorter jaws, and outlines suggesting smaller jaw muscles. Other researchers have reported similar findings.

A small, weak jaw is a damn good explanation for the malocclusion, crowded teeth, and tooth decay we see among indigenous tribes that transition to a Western environment. These changes occur quickly too… your children and grandchildren:

Cross-cultural data dispel the notion that considerable occlusal variation is inevitable or normal. Rather, it is an aberrancy of modem urbanized populations. Furthermore, the transition from predominantly good to predominantly bad occlusion repeatedly occurs within one or two generations’ time in these (and other) populations.

We know that eating soft foods is one cause — having young kids chew on hard resin from a pine tree for two hours each day grew larger jaws, developed straighter teeth, and had significantly greater bite force after one year. Having preschoolers simply chew gum twice per day increases bite force and jaw muscle strength, and these increases are maintained even up to a month after stopping the gum chewing.

Let that sink in… simply having kids chew leads to better developed jaw structure and muscle function. And don’t worry, adult jaws benefit from chewing too — especially maximal bite force.

Chew Some Xylitol Gum

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables and is widely used as a sugar substitute. One of the key mechanisms by which xylitol promotes oral health is through its interaction with harmful oral bacteria, particularly Streptococcus mutans, which plays a significant role in the formation of dental cavities.

Unlike other sugars, xylitol is not fermentable by these bacteria, meaning they cannot metabolize it to produce the acids that lead to tooth decay. When bacteria ingest xylitol, their energy production process is disrupted, ultimately leading to a decrease in their growth and acid-producing capability.

Moreover, xylitol has been shown to inhibit the adhesion of Streptococcus mutans to the tooth surface, preventing the formation of dental plaque. Since plaque accumulation is a major contributing factor to tooth decay and gum disease, reducing plaque formation plays a significant role in maintaining oral health.

A meta-analysis of 16 studies comparing xylitol to other cavity preventive strategies found it to be the most effective at reducing dental caries, including decayed, missing, and filled teeth. It was even more effective than using a conventional fluoride varnish at dental offices.

Xylitol-containing products, especially gum and mints, stimulate saliva production, which is beneficial for oral health for several reasons. Saliva helps to neutralize acids in the mouth, reducing the risk of enamel demineralization. It also aids in the remineralization process by supplying minerals, such as calcium and phosphate, to the enamel. One study found that chewing xylitol gum for three weeks reduced gingivitis and plaque scores, reduced salivary concentrations of inflammatory cytokines, and reduced S. mutans concentrations by 5-fold.

Xylitol has been associated with the promotion of enamel remineralization. The presence of xylitol in the oral cavity can enhance the deposition of calcium and phosphate, essential minerals for repairing and strengthening the tooth enamel. This process not only helps to reverse early signs of tooth decay but also contributes to the overall hardness and resilience of the teeth against future acid attacks.

So, pick up some xylitol gum and chew it through the day. You’ll not only train a powerful jaw and help with aligning your bite, but you’ll inhibit the most common causes of tooth degeneration that afflict modern humans.

Breathe Through Your Nose

Breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth, is an often-overlooked factor that plays a crucial role in maintaining good oral health. Nasal breathing is not only the most efficient way to absorb oxygen, but it also provides several benefits that directly impact the health of your teeth and gums.

One of the primary advantages of nasal breathing is its natural ability to filter and humidify the air we breathe. The nasal passages filter out particles like dust, allergens, and bacteria, preventing them from entering the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system. Additionally, the air is warmed and humidified as it passes through the nose, which is beneficial for the lungs and overall respiratory health. This filtered and humidified air is also better for the oral cavity, as it reduces the risk of dry mouth — a condition that can increase susceptibility to dental decay and gum disease.

Mouth breathing often leads to dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the saliva in the mouth is reduced. Saliva is crucial for oral health; it helps to neutralize acids produced by plaque bacteria, wash away food particles, and provide disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line defense against microbial invasion or overgrowth that leads to disease. Without sufficient saliva, teeth are more vulnerable to decay, and the incidence of gum disease can increase. Moreover, a dry mouth can lead to bad breath and a higher risk of infections.

People who breathe through their mouths when they sleep have more acidic mouths that puts them at a greater risk of erosion and cavities. It also dries up saliva, which plays a vital role in defending the mouth against insult.

From an orthodontic perspective, nasal breathing is important for the proper development of the oral cavity and facial structures, particularly in children. Chronic mouth breathing can alter the natural growth patterns of the face, leading to long-term issues such as misaligned teeth, gum recession, and even changes in facial shape. These issues can require complex orthodontic treatments to correct and can contribute to less efficient chewing and speech difficulties.

Furthermore, nasal breathing increases the levels of nitric oxide in the body, a molecule that has various health benefits including the enhancement of the body's ability to transport and absorb oxygen. Increased oxygen absorption improves the body’s overall oxygenation, boosting energy levels, improving sleep quality, and enhancing the immune response, which can help the body fight off oral infections more effectively.

Now, none of this is saying you should always avoid mouth breathing. We evolved to use both depending on the oxygen demands of the body. If you’ve ever exercised hard, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, even during low-level exercise, restricting breathing to the nose lowers oxygen intake and ventilation while increasing discomfort and blood lactate (meaning the body needed to rely more on carbs than fats to support the exercise, since oxygen wasn’t as readily available). During high-intensity activity, nasal breathing places extra strain on the heart.

Alkalize Your Saliva

Maintaining an alkaline environment in your mouth is crucial for dental health. Saliva naturally helps to neutralize acids in the mouth that can cause tooth decay and enamel erosion. By alkalizing your saliva, you enhance its ability to protect your teeth and gums effectively.

A neutral to slightly alkaline pH is ideal for preventing the demineralization of tooth enamel. When you eat foods high in sugars or starches, bacteria in the mouth produce acids as a byproduct of metabolism. These acids can lower the pH level of your saliva, leading to an environment that promotes tooth decay and gum disease. By keeping your saliva more alkaline, you can neutralize these acids more effectively and protect your teeth.

We’ve known this since at least 1900, when the dentist M. Fletcher said:

Normal saliva is slightly alkaline, but the alkalinity is so weak that few mouths are capable of prompt recovery from an acid condition, neither is the alkalinity usually strong enough to counteract the acids of decay, hence it seems rational to endeavor to supply this deficiency.

The body is smart. It naturally increases the alkalinity of saliva during times of oral stress, such as gingivitis, to help combat the condition and heal the mouth. Yet, those with more severe gum disease have more acidic saliva, strongly suggesting that the natural buffering mechanisms simply could not overcome the disease burden.

The easiest way to alkalize your saliva, or at least prevent it from becoming too acidic, is to eat the diet we evolved on — rich in nose-to-tail animal products providing all the bioavailable nutrients your mouth needs to bite through steel. And ditch the sugars, grains, and seed oils in the process — they ferment into acid and inflame your gums.

Protect Your Mouth

In today's world, our mouths face numerous challenges from our modern environment that can compromise oral health. Protecting your mouth involves taking proactive steps to minimize the impact of these modern threats.

Find a Biological Dentist

Regular visits allow dental professionals to monitor the health of your teeth and gums, identify potential problems early, and provide necessary treatments to prevent more serious issues from developing.

One of the primary benefits of biannual dental check-ups is the early detection of oral health issues such as cavities, gum disease, and even oral cancer. Early detection often results in simpler and more effective treatment options. For example, identifying and treating a cavity early can prevent the need for more extensive dental work, like root canals or extractions, down the line.

Routine cleanings, typically performed during these visits, remove plaque and tartar that cannot be eliminated by brushing and flossing alone. Tartar, or calculus, is a hardened plaque that adheres strongly to tooth enamel and beneath the gum line and can only be removed with professional dental instruments.

Biannual visits also include a thorough assessment of gum health. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can progress silently, often without pain, and can lead to serious consequences for both oral and overall health if left untreated. Regular dental check-ups include measurements of the depth of spaces between the teeth and gums, which are indicators of gum health. Early stages of gum disease (gingivitis) can often be reversed with proper dental care and improved oral hygiene practices.

But, not all dental practices are the same. Many just want to treat the symptoms, which leads to more dental problems down the road.

Fluoride

Take fluoride — that miracle mineral our dentists encourage us to use daily and our government forces us to drink in tap water is a known neurotoxin. Fluoride can cross the blood brain barrier prior to birth and has been reported to affect mental development, increasing learning disorders and decreasing intelligence in children. Listen up mothers-to-be, this is VERY important for you:

The fetal brain is also susceptible to fluoride poisoning. Fluoride affects the fetal brain tissues and results in remarkable neurological damage, neuronal degeneration, and reduced secretion of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine.

There are concerns that fluoride may affect a variety of endocrine (hormone-producing) tissues within the body, with studies documenting links between greater fluoride exposure and impaired function of the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreatic, and adrenal glands.

For the thyroid specifically, fluoride inhibits the ability of the thyroid to use iodine, potentially leading to hypothyroidism or other thyroid problems. Studies in adults have associated fluoride levels in the body to elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, an indication of hypothyroidism, but only in adults who consume insufficient iodine. A meta-analysis of children found the effects of fluoride on thyroid function to be more severe.

Fluoride also happens to disturb sperm production and sexual function and reduce immune function. The best part, this supposed tooth-strengthening mineral can lead to disturbances of bone (skeletal fluorosis) and enamel development (dental fluorosis).

If that’s not enough to dissuade you from using the stuff, how about this

While it might have been excusable in the 1950s to utilise an enzyme poison such as fluoride to undesirably alter dental architecture and to kill cariogenic bacteria, a better understanding of the pathogenesis of dental caries, coupled with development of antibiotics and probiotics with strong anticariogenic effects, diminishes any major future role for fluoride in caries prevention.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Let’s be real, research takes time and our understanding of nutrition is constantly evolving. So, sure, the fluoride issue may have been excusable in the past when we were still learning about its toxicity, but to continue to promote it today when that information is readily available is just plain ridiculous. We know what causes dental problems, and it isn’t a lack of fluoride. Let’s start addressing the root causes (no pun intended).

Dental Work and Fillings

Having dental work done and getting fillings, crowns, root canals, etc., are another huge concern. I really don’t think that enough people recognize the danger that can lurk in the dentist’s chair.

For example, many people go in for fillings, crowns, or dental implants to “fix” their poor dental health (treating the symptom rather than the cause, of course). A big issue here is that these change the bite (occlusion), which can cause jaw pain and disorders over time. Think of a car: if the wheels are not in alignment with the suspension, then the joints will wear quicker and cause other problems. Same deal with the teeth and jaw.

Amalgam fillings are another, more serious, example. They are some of the most dangerous substances that we could put in our bodies because more than 50% of dental amalgam is made of elemental mercury. Yet, they are still used every single day in typical dentistry practices.

This poison has the ability to cause muscle weakness, poor coordination, numbness, skin rashes, anxiety, memory problems, trouble speaking, hearing issues, and worse vision. Case-in-point: mad hatter disease — mercury poisoning of hat makers that used mercury when making hats. Those fumes made them go crazy… literally.

Now imagine having mercury in your mouth… for decades… since childhood. Yikes. Experimental evidence consistently demonstrates that mercury is released from amalgams and is absorbed by the human body. Research on monkeys has shown that mercury released from dental amalgams is absorbed and accumulated in the kidney, brain, lung, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and hormonal glands.

Recent studies are also finding that the mercury released from amalgam fillings is magnified by exposure to EMFs (R1, R2, R3, R4). This means that your teeth could be poisoning you more and more each day as you use your phone and Wi-Fi… our daily EMF exposure is reaching all-time highs.

If you need dental work done, avoid amalgams at all costs. If you already have amalgam fillings, look for a biological dentist that can safely remove your fillings and dispose of them in an environmentally-appropriate way. Simply allowing your family dentist to drill those fillings out means that you will absolutely inhale and ingest a slew of mercury dust — that heavy metal toxicity could take years to remove.

Unfortunately, amalgam isn’t the only dental concern to be aware of today. Many composite fillings and sealants are made with BPA-based resins. BPA has the ability to disrupt every single endocrine system in our bodies, from our metabolism to our heart rate and everything in between. Avoid it at all costs.

Your best bet is to find a biological, holistic dentist who uses non-reactive, non-toxic materials and (hopefully) even tests you for biocompatibility. Avoid fluoride whenever possible, and focus your attention on why you have dental issues (deficiencies in vitamins D, K2, and A are usually the root cause!).

Importantly, most people aren't ready to have the mercury removed from their mouths... they're not strong enough to endure the toxic load from the procedure. Get familiar with Louisa Williams' 5-Dental Detox Days and find a qualified biological dentist to get the job done right.

Don’t Drink Or Smoke

Smoking tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, is a well-documented risk factor for many oral health issues. It can lead to tooth discoloration, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases, oral cancer. The nicotine and tar in tobacco can reduce saliva flow, which is essential for neutralizing acids in the mouth and washing away food particles. Furthermore, smoking compromises the immune system, impairing the body's ability to fight off oral infections and slowing down the healing process after dental procedures.

Vaping, often perceived as a safer alternative to smoking, also poses risks to oral health. E-cigarettes and vape pens contain nicotine and other chemicals that can irritate the gums and contribute to gum recession, dry mouth, and an increased risk of cavities. Recent studies have suggested that vaping can alter the oral microbiome, making the mouth more susceptible to harmful bacteria and diseases.

Excessive alcohol consumption can have several adverse effects on oral health. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration and dry mouth. A reduction in saliva flow increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, high alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of oral cancer, especially when combined with smoking. Alcohol can also erode the enamel on teeth, leading to sensitivity and making teeth more prone to cavities.

Ditch Acidic Foods

Limiting the consumption of acidic foods and drinks is crucial advice for maintaining dental health, primarily because of the direct relationship between acid exposure and the demineralization of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the hardest and most mineralized substance in the human body, composed mainly of hydroxyapatite, a crystalline calcium phosphate compound. Despite its hardness, enamel is vulnerable to acidic environments. Demineralization occurs when the pH level in the mouth drops below 5.5, leading to the dissolution of calcium and phosphate ions from the enamel.

Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, soda, sports drinks, and wine, can significantly lower the pH level in the mouth. Even natural acids like citric, phosphoric, and malic acid in otherwise healthy foods can contribute to the demineralization process if consumed too frequently.

When you do consume acidic foods and drinks, always wait at least 30 minutes before you consider brushing (if the two events line up that way) because the acid demineralizes and softens enamel, and the mechanical action of brushing can exacerbate the loss of mineral content. This is particularly true if the toothbrush has hard bristles or if the brushing technique is too rough.

Waiting allows saliva, which is naturally alkaline, sufficient time to neutralize the acids, help remineralize the enamel, and restore the mouth to its natural pH balance. You can also chew gum (xylitol preferred) to accelerate salivation.

Use Soft Toothbrushes

Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the human body, covers the outer layer of each tooth, providing protection against decay. Despite its strength, enamel can be worn down by abrasive substances, including hard-bristled toothbrushes or excessive brushing force. Soft-bristled toothbrushes and gentle electric toothbrush settings are designed to clean effectively without applying excessive force that could wear away this protective layer.

The gums (gingiva) are another vital component of oral health, forming a tight seal around the teeth to support them and protect against bacterial invasion. Aggressive brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush or applying too much pressure can cause gum recession, exposing the roots of the teeth. This exposure can lead to sensitivity, an increased risk of root decay, and potentially compromise the stability of the teeth.

Modern soft toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes with adjustable intensity settings are designed to remove plaque effectively without damaging the teeth or gums. Soft bristles can flexibly reach into the crevices between teeth and along the gumline, areas where plaque bacteria tend to accumulate, ensuring thorough cleaning. Electric toothbrushes, particularly those with sensors to indicate when too much pressure is applied, further aid in maintaining gentle yet effective brushing techniques.

Avoid Alcohol-based Mouthwashes

The oral microbiome consists of a complex community of bacteria and other microorganisms that play a critical role in oral health. These microorganisms help in digesting food, protecting against pathogens, and supporting the immune system. Alcohol-based mouthwashes can disrupt this microbial balance by indiscriminately killing bacteria, including beneficial species that contribute to oral health. A disrupted oral microbiome can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease.

The mucosal lining in the mouth serves as a barrier protecting the underlying tissues and helps in the process of saliva production, which is essential for neutralizing acids, remineralizing teeth, and washing away food particles. Alcohol-based mouthwashes can irritate and dry out this lining, leading to reduced saliva flow (xerostomia), which can exacerbate dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease. A systematic review of 8 studies suggested that alcohol-based mouthwash use was associated with a greater risk of oral cancer, primarily with frequent use.