Day 25: Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Barbara Tritz
· June 25, 2023 ·

4 minutes

Healthy food- Eat the Rainbow

In dental hygiene, we focus so much on being “antibacterial”. We worry about all the bad bugs and what they do in the mouth to create and foster tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. We polish, scrape, brush, floss, and swish away the plaque and calculus (tartar). What if we are doing it all wrong? Prehistoric man didn’t have a dental hygienist pestering him to floss and brush yet dental diseases were rare. If we want to defeat dental disease maybe it’s time we work with the good bacteria, viruses and other microbes instead of trying so hard to outfox them. Let’s let food be our preventive medicine.

Food: Destroyer or Healer

Microbes – Friend and Foe

Prehistoric man had better teeth and a healthier mouth because of his diet. He ate really hard food, as well as meat, nuts and vegetables, and fruits. Things started changing when he transitioned to farming and added carbohydrates such as wheat and barley to his diet. That altered the diversity of the microbiome. Then fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and the appearance of sugar. Tooth decay was off to the races. If we want to conquer cavities and gum disease we need to work with the good microbes rather than try to outwit the bad ones. Food is the real key to oral health. Let food be thy medicine.

The Good Stuff

I realize this might be a shocker but our mouth needs plaque. It is suppose to be there. (And Dental Hygienists work so hard to get it all off.) Healthy plaque and good microbes are an important part of our oral health. We need the good microbes to help us be healthy. They are as imporant to our systemic wellness as sunshine, restful sleep and exercise. Good microbes make up 99% of the microbiome.

Check out the book: Heal Your Oral Microbiome by my friend Cass Nelson-Dooley MS.

The term “good plaque” may be counter to everything you have heard.

Good plaque supports our immune system, protects the teeth from acid attacks by buffering it, and creates nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is vital to our health because it opens up our blood vessels. The good bacteria in the mouth make NO. Wiping out all the bacteria may actually make our health – both oral and systemic worse. Antibacterial mouthwash kills off all the microbes which means it kills the microbes that make NO. Research shows that those who use antibacterial mouthwashes create higher systolic blood pressures. We need good plaque and a healthy microbiome.

Prebiotics

If we can’t beat them, let’s join them! The secret is in the foods we select to eat. The idea is to feed the good microbes a healthy diet of fiber foods called “Prebiotics”. (You have heard of “probiotics” – they are the live bacteria in fermented foods that help to repopulate the gut microbiome.) Prebiotics feed and grow the friendlies in both the mouth and the gut with nondigestible carbohydrates. By feeding the good microbes we strengthen and support them rather than send all of them down the sink. They keep the dental microbiome environment healthy and in homeostasis.

Prebiotics

Some prebiotic foods are:

Apples, bananas, seaweed, wheat bran, leeks, onions, garlic, oats, asparagus, jicama root, and barley.

Food that is rich in color, fiber, and variation is key to maintaining and growing a good garden of healthy bugs. (Stop eating sugar – it feeds the bad guys. But you knew that.)

Sugar Feeds the Bad Buigs

My goal is to have a healthy microbiome by feeding it so it can keep the bad bugs in check. This is not an invitation to stop brushing or not seeing your fabulous dental hygienist but rather a shift in the way we look at oral hygiene. We must work with the microbial world rather than try to outwit and outfox it with fancy tools and rinses. (How well were we able to evade the Coronavirus? Not very, he’s too small and crafty.) Food is truly healing medicine.

We may have evolved but our microbiome prefers that of a more simple diet of our ancestral caveman forebears. Food is key to all our systemic health and total body wellness. It is our best medicine. Eat well my friends.

Warmly,

Barbara Tritz RDH

Queen of the Perimeter of the Grocery Store (where the prebiotic food lives)

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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