It’s a new year, and likely over the festive period you’ve been thinking about how to make healthier choices. For many, that means going on a diet, and one of the most popular is the paleo diet – also known as the Caveman diet.
What is a paleo diet?
A paleo(lithic) diet means eating strictly pre-agrarian foods and is high in meat, fish, vegetables, seeds and nuts. That means cutting out all the foods we associate with traditional farming and modern methods of food processing (primarily grain/wheat-based, dairy and sugary products like bread, pasta, rice, beans, cheese, chocolate and cake etc.).
In theory, this should be a great move for your teeth as the paleo diet is notoriously low in sugar and carbohydrates – which turn into sugar in your mouth and can contribute to tooth decay.
But that’s not the whole picture when it comes to oral health.
Is a paleo diet good for teeth?
It’s true that historians noted our ancestors from 20,000 to 10,000 years ago had very little tooth decay. Needless to say, these humans didn’t brush their teeth or visit a dentist! Their remains show that while they did have high levels of bacteria in their mouths, it wasn’t the kind that led to tooth decay.
So what’s the problem?
Well, another group of ancestors in Morocco, 10,000 years ago, did suffer quite severe tooth decay as a result of eating crushed and mashed acorns – relatively high in carbohydrates (a density of at least 41%). That’s 5000 years before the agricultural revolution is thought to have signalled the start of chronic tooth decay with its reliance on wheat and domesticated dairy products.
Even if you’re a strict enough paleo dieter to keep your carbohydrate density to a max of 23%, that’s still not the end of the story…
Looking beyond diet
As Dr Danenberg points out, it isn’t just what you eat that affects your oral health. There are environmental factors we must consider today: “inadequate levels of Vitamin D, chronic stress, and environmental toxins.”
And what does that mean?
“They affect the gut, the microbiome, and the immune system. Unhealthy bacteria in our gut increase unhealthy bacteria in our mouth. When fermentable carbohydrates come into contact with these nasty bugs, which congregate around the teeth as dental plaque, they set the stage for tooth decay and gum disease.”
While moving towards a paleo diet is definitely a great step for your oral health, it’s impossible to eradicate carbohydrates completely from your diet. That means it’s still wise to keep on top of your oral health, especially if you’re only just transitioning and finding yourself craving the odd bread roll or you don’t monitor the specific carb density of each item you eat.
And after all, if you’re like the most of us living and working in London, it’s hard to make yourself immune to the pollution and stresses of the big city and the modern world.
How to look after your teeth on a paleo diet
Dr Danenberg recommends flossing and brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least once a day, and here at Number 18 Dental we recommend you still come in every 6 months for a dental check-up. Check-ups don’t just monitor the health of your teeth, we also look out for signs of mouth cancer and any other problems.
Got a question? Get in touch with our Notting Hill dental practice today.