Would a return to the diet of our ancestors solve tooth decay (and everything else)?

It has occurred to me lately that a tooth rotting out of your mouth probably shouldn’t be any more normal than any other part of your body rotting off.  A tooth rotting is obviously the most acceptable to people, any other part of their body rotting off would likely be cause for great alarm for most of us.  I think it’s the standard american diet (SAD) of processed concentrated sugars and carbohydrates that are giving the bacteria in your mouth the fuel they need to make acid that rots your teeth.  I don’t think a paleo-style diet of meat, fish and vegetables is generally capable of the kind of destruction I see all the time that today’s diet is capable of.  Diet, I believe, is the chief cause of cavities.  There are occasionally other factors, albeit rare, but the main factor is what contacts your teeth on a daily basis.

I came across an NPR article from 5 years ago that argues the paleo diet wasn’t always so hot for ancient people’s teeth.  That flies in the face of everything I know about demineralization of teeth and it’s cause. It’s thought that when hunter-gatherers started adding grains and starches to their diet, it brought about the “age of cavities.”  The article cites a cave in Morocco where remains of a civilization that lived 15,000 years ago were found.  This was before the age of agriculture when people ate what was found in nature.  Evidently 94% of the bodies found had cavities to the researcher’s surprise.  The article uses this as evidence that paleo diets in general also weren’t good for your teeth.  But it also states that the main source of the cavities were likely acorns, the remains of which were littered all over the place. Acorns are high in carbohydrates like a lot of modern foods and are quite sticky.

If you are an ancient being or even a modern hipster on a paleo diet, sure you can hang around and snack on acorns and fruit all day and get a mouthful of decay.  But aside from a habit like that, eating meat, fish, and most vegetables is not going to rot your teeth.  That is really what I think of when I think paleo. The more fat and protein-based your diet, the greater chance you have of oral health.  That is in sharp contrast to the standard american diet filled with pasta, cereals, breads and bagels, carbohydrates galore which are a dream come true for the bacteria in your mouth that will use them to rot your teeth.  And frankly, with the knowledge and observations of doctors like Terry Wahls and Natasha Campbell-McBride, those kinds of foods are implicated in rotting EVERYTHING ELSE after they rot your teeth, from your brain and your mood to your cardiovascular system to your nervous system and pretty much everything inbetween.  There are indigenous populations who were never exposed to the standard american diet who have virtually none of the sorts of chronic and autoimmune diseases we have right here in one of the most successful countries in the history of the planet. Victims, of our own success, I believe.

In summary – I do think a paleo diet is your best chance at oral health.  Just fight that irresistible urge to eat 5 pounds of acorns a day and I think you’ll be alright.


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