In recent years, there have been discoveries with regards to new ways of fixing decayed teeth or enamel, that is – laser treatment. Scientists have discovered that low-powered lasers may be used to activate stem cells and stimulate teeth growth. Its commercial use is currently still being developed.
My question is – is there a cheaper alternative? Can nutrition be used in fixing damaged teeth? It seems that better nutrition can be used to fix many health issues from arthritis to skin problems. What about tooth decay?
Once a tooth chips or breaks, it will never repair on its own. This is because there are no living cells in enamels (in comparison to bone, another calcium-rich organ, which is the house of bone marrow that is abundant in stem cells). Therefore, the damage is done forever. Or is it?
You would have seen a few dental care products out there that claim to restore damaged teeth by ways of remineralization, including through “fluoride varnish” or “calcium and phosphate paste”.
So what is exactly remineralization? Remineralization is the process in which naturally occurring minerals such as calcium or phosphate (found in the saliva) are added to the effected areas to adhere to weak spots and repair them. Unfortunately, those patches do not become part of the enamel, but are just as hard and lasting.
In fact, the loss and replacement of minerals in teeth is a natural process which happens daily. Calcium naturally found in saliva should be enough to make small repairs. However, our dietary habits such as high sugar intake, tea and coffee (with sugar) drinking habits, or high intake of acidic foods, can interfere with this natural healing process. These result in weak spots which later become cavities.
In other cases, if there is a calcium deficiency elsewhere inside the body, such as the spine of an osteoporosis sufferer, the calcium from teeth can be pulled to fulfill this need.
The good foods
These foods are not problem-solvers, but have high potentials to aid in the remineralization process. Why? Various factors. However, what these foods have in common are that they are whole foods.
High calcium foods: dairy products such as cheese, and milk (alkalizing foods which will decrease the acidity in your mouth that causes plaque and tooth decay. As a result, yoghurt which is acidic is less effective), or dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. Apparently, bone broth or fish with soft bones will also suffice (according to a 1920’s study).
Calcium acts as natural fillers.
High phosphorus foods: meat, eggs, fish, and nuts (especially sunflower seeds and brazil nuts *almonds can fall under both calcium and phosphorus category)
Phosphorus seem to act in the same way as calcium.
Vitamin D rich foods: oily fish (i.e. the famous cod-liver oil), meat, dairy products, soy products, and nuts.Why Vitamin D?
They contain the same benefit to bones, as to teeth – encourage growth and repair.
To pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans – There seems to be not much problem for pescetarians in obtaining the required nutrients. In fact, seafood are amongst the top foods for for teeth repair. However, be sure to not overdo seafood, since mercury poisoned fish, or other kind of contamination has become a real threat to seafood industry and consumers in recent years.
Pescetarians can always look to plant-based alternatives!
It is also easier for vegetarians, since dairy products or eggs are one of the ultimate calcium/other growth-related nutrients, etc. powerhouse. The question of whether dairy products should be regularly consumed is still debated.
For vegans, it’s a different situation. Nevertheless, plant products like nuts, soy, beans, and certain veggies are also very rich in substances like calcium and phosphorus. It is simply that meat-eaters need to eat smaller amounts of their food to obtain the optimum condition. For example, to obtain the the daily requirement of phosphorus, vegans must consume at least one cup of portobello mushrooms, a serving of fortified cereal (cereal will be further discussed), and a bit of tofu each day.
Important: be sure to reduce the amount of phytic acid in the legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains as much as possible (for example, through soaking, sprouting, fermenting, boiling, or roasting). After all, phytic is an acid, and can block calcium and phosphorus absorption!
The bad foods
The categories are pretty big, but mostly the foods we all hate to love.
The main ones:
– sugary foods
– starchy foods
– soft drinks
– acidic foods
Why? Sugar and starch feeds the bacteria which produces excessive acid in the mouth, causing tooth decay. Many soft drinks contain phosphoric acid (completely different to phosphorus due to different chemical structures resulting in different properties) which will wear down teeth, and acidic foods does the same.
Summary: other than better managed nutrition, one must also change one’s habit in order to reverse the effects of tooth decay (to an extent). For example, brushing teeth after meals or regularly flossing.
So, to answer the question, damaged teeth has the potential to grow back with proper treatment. There have been many cases of cavities filling up naturally through the above mentioned nutrition and proper dental care. Therefore, (also according to different individuals), high mineral and vitamin, and low sugar diet is very likely to replace fillers. It will just simply take a bit more effort and time than a visit to the dentist’s!