Tooth remineralisation & demineralisation, saliva & pH
(At least) 6 major prerequisites for dental health and stopping & reversing tooth decay
This page, together with Minerals and trace elements, is one of the most important pages of Healing Teeth Naturally since the processes of remineralisation and demineralisation are at the heart of both tooth decay and dental regeneration. To simplify matters in this introduction, teeth are essentially made of calcium and phosphate. Quite unbeknownst to normal humans, there is a constant "traffic" going on in our mouth, with calcium and phosphate migrating in and out of our teeth on a daily basis in response to factors such as chewing hard substances, eating acidic food, and pH and mineral & trace element content of our saliva (as well as blood). Saliva (and blood) composition in turn depend on the quality and mineral content of the food we ingest, our emotional state, any medications we might take, and as far as saliva is concerned, the bacteria population "inhabiting" our mouth (and frequently teeth).
Dental health prerequisite number 1:
When a person's diet is healthy, i.e. adjusted to that person's individual needs, their saliva will be high in calcium and phosphate. So the daily wear and tear on teeth induced by chewing and eating acidic foods, i.e. the process of demineralisation, will be balanced and offset by constant remineralization via the saliva in the proper pH range and filled with the required minerals.
In other words, saliva quality is of crucial importance in the prevention of tooth cavities since it is this medium which bathes and carries nutrition to teeth (in addition to the interior "supply pipe" provided by the bloodstream to the pulp of the tooth interior1).
Dental health prerequisite number 2:
blood rich in tooth-friendly minerals, trace elements and vitamins
Since teeth can get both nourished and depleted both from inside (your bloodstream via the tooth's pulp chamber1) and outside (saliva and food passing through as well as food rests and bacterial waste products remaining in your mouth), it is important to nourish yourself in a manner that allows your blood to be rich in all elements your teeth require. More details at Dr. Shelton on the true causes of tooth decay, Nutrition and particularly Minerals.
Dental health prerequisite number 3: unimpeded dentinal fluid transport
To allow tooth-friendly elements contained in your blood to nourish and replenish your teeth while defending them against outside would-be intruders, research by Drs. Steinman & Leonora spanning nearly four decades strongly suggests the existence of a hormone-mediated dentinal fluid flow system existing under healthy conditions which ensures a tooth's immunity against tooth decay. See details at Dentinal fluid transport - revolutionary theory of natural caries resistance and cariogenesis.
Dental health prerequisite number 4:
proper saliva pH
Now the added "complication" is that saliva bathing your teeth also needs to be at neutral or near-neutral pH (around 7 on the pH scale ranging from 0 to 14), for teeth to remineralize properly (refer for instance to the studies done at the University of Newcastle [UK] which have shown the link between saliva pH and remineralization). With saliva within the proper pH range, the calcium and phosphate contained precipitate into those spots in the enamel which are lacking in those minerals.
Acidic saliva will tend to demineralize teeth. In fact, German dentist Johann Georg Schnitzer writes in one of his books that he has measured pH values in people with rapidly advancing tooth decay which were so low (acidic) that their teeth were well soluble in their own saliva.
On the other hand, when saliva becomes too alkaline, deposits called calculus [tartar] will form on the teeth.
And since food rests allowed to remain in the mouth and metabolized by bacteria can turn into "acid waste" products secreted by these bacteria, here is another reason why good oral hygiene can help save teeth by raising saliva pH to tooth-friendly levels. Incidentally, one near-instant way of doing this is the use of baking soda for toothbrushing or rinsing.
Alkalizing if your tissues are overacidic
Many things serve to shift one's tissue pH towards enhanced alkalinity, from an alkaline-focused diet, adding alkaline foods/natural supplements such as blackstrap molasses, to meditation, prayer and joy (in fact, according to scientific research, meditation seems to be a powerful dental health and healing factor which among other beneficial changes, raises salivary pH). All these and more I've seen reported as having an alkalizing effect on human tissues, while stress (and of course acidifying foods, see table) acidify them.
To be and remain healthy, teeth need to be constantly bathed in saliva. When the mouth is dry, teeth may/will suffer, due to the resulting increase in cavity-causing bacteria.4 This also applies to dry mouth caused by taking certain medications and even by breathing through your mouth in your sleep. Radiation treatment (so-called radiotherapy) to the general area of the mouth can also seriously damage the functioning of the salivary glands. Dental x-rays8 may cause dry mouth as well, so may stress5. Tobacco smoking or chewing also seems to inhibit saliva and is a risk factor for gingivitis and subsequent root-surface caries.
While dentists apparently recommend chewing sugarless gum to prevent dry mouth, I have yet to see one such product that does not contain toxic Aspartame6 (not to mention other chemicals). A site visitor commented that "the cinnamon-flavored Trident... is the only Trident without aspartame ... [but] still full of chemicals." I would suggest however, if you do use chewing gum to go for one exclusively sweetened with xylitol. Or use the outstanding saliva stimulator Mastic gum (resin): healthy chewing gum alternative which has many additional medical benefits.
Of course, the first measure to ensure good salivary flow would seem to be hydrating yourself via high-quality water, particularly since according to F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., author of the landmark book "Your Body's Many Cries for Water", most of us (quite unbeknownst to us) are dehydrated in any case.7 9
Dental health prerequisite number 6:
proper mastication - exercise your teeth and gums by chewing well
Most natural, unprocessed (or little-processed) food (such as whole-grain products and fresh raw fruits and vegetables) typically requires thorough chewing due to its fibre content. The increased blood and lymphatic circulation in gum, teeth, and other oral tissues (see Tooth for an illustration of the blood vessels supplying teeth) brought about by thoroughly chewing one’s food should in itself both enhance dental cellular detoxification and nourishment. Additionally, the mechanical action of the fiber on teeth and gums acts similarly to a toothbrush by cleaning the tooth surfaces.
It can even be speculated (in fact, tentatively stated as a fact) that a major cause of tooth decay and jaw problems lies in the very lack of use we make of our teeth and jaw muscles when we mostly consume soft processed food2 - after all, lack of exercise in other parts of the body tends to lead to atrophy (wasting away), including our muscles, bones and brain (as in the phrase "use it or lose it"). In fact this is what Edgar Cayce hinted at when stating that modern "soft" foods (as opposed to what he termed "detergent" foods such as raw carrots, lettuce and the like), constitute a cause of teeth and gum disorders (this is easy to understand since as weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones, by analogy, teeth should benefit from chewing). And last but not least, chewing of course gets our saliva "going".
Eminent Natural Hygiene14 proponent Dr. Herbert Shelton recounts a beautiful testimonial testifying to the dental healing value of properly exercising one's teeth:
"A mother brought her young child to me. She was distressed that his jawbones and mouth were developing poorly. The boy had a terrible bite (referring to the way the teeth fit), and there did not appear to be any room in the crowded mouth for the new teeth to erupt. After discussing the child's diet, I suggested that the mother give the child a raw carrot to chew on at his regular meal and as a replacement for his sweet snacks. Years later I saw the mother and child again. The child had beautiful straight teeth. The hard chewing that was required for the raw carrot allowed the teeth to straighten out as they performed the job for which they were originally intended."
Dr. Shelton is unequivocal about the dental health importance of chewing natural food: "Soft diets, which require no work of the teeth and jaws in chewing, aid in producing dental decay. No tooth can have adequate nutrition unless it is used... a tough, fibrous diet not only gives the teeth and jaws needed exercise, but also cleans the teeth.10
Two other anecdotal reports regarding the dental healing effects or benefits of exercising one's jaws have been furnished by Victoria Boutenko of "green smoothies" fame. One is the story of twins she met, where one had good and the other bad teeth. The only thing that distinguished the two was that the former was an avid chewing gum user while the latter did not chew gum! The other report is her own story: when she wanted to get implants she was told her jaw bones were too thin to allow implantation of artificial teeth. Since smoothies in spite of all their health benefits do not exactly demand vigorous facial exercise to consume, she invented her own device for providing dental exercise (basically an oversized chewing gum), used it religiously on a daily basis and was rewarded with strong regrowth in her jaw bone mass which allowed the dental implant surgeries she desired to eventually be performed.11
Proper mastication thus seems not only an important factor in good digestion, i.e. one of the central pillars of a healthy body3, but also in the health and regeneration of your teeth, gums and jaws. An outstanding helper for all whose teeth, gums and jaws would benefit from more exercise is Mastic gum (resin): healthy chewing gum alternative - a natural jaw exerciser, breath freshener, bacterial plaque fighter, saliva stimulator, gum helper, tooth whitener - with unique medical benefits.
Dental health prerequisite number 7 (this point is arguable!): teeth surfaces need to be clean and unimpacted by glycerin
For teeth to be able to integrate the minerals contained in saliva into their structural "latticework", i.e. for them to remineralize via saliva, Dr. Gerald Judd, author of 'Good Teeth Birth to Death', insists that teeth must be "clean" to allow this remineralization to occur. In his eyes, teeth must not only be brushed but also be free of any coating of sticky glycerin (see details at Dr. Gerald Judd's natural dental protocol). Oddly, glycerin is a common ingredient in many commercial toothpastes (and even found in health food store varieties).
To my knowledge Dr. Judd was the first to "officially" recommend using soap instead of toothpaste to effectively "squeaky" clean teeth and gums12, as the first crucial step for allowing remineralization to occur from the nutrition provided by the saliva.
While Dr. Judd's insistence on glycerin- and otherwise clean teeth seems to make sense (at least at first blush), some dental researchers such as Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. George W. Heard have reported seeing perfectly healthy teeth which had never even been cleaned and were thickly covered with various impurities. Invariably, these teeth were found in people having lived on a natural mineral and trace element-rich diet from birth.
Some dental health researchers / dentists have come out against Dr Judd's claim. For one reason, there appear to be no corroborating scientific studies showing glycerin to impact teeth to the point of preventing remineralisation.
It can be suspected that the chemist Dr. Judd made his discovery based on applying pure glycerin to the teeth which very conceivably could indeed coat the teeth to the point of requiring multiple rinses for removal. By the same token, such a layer of pure glycerin might then prevent minerals from penetrating where they should penetrate. (On the other hand, such a barrier could actually work to equally prevent demineralization of the teeth, at least as long as it is not scrubbed off by chewing or possibly chemically changed by acidic foods, drinks or saliva.)
In the real world, in any case, glycerin in toothpastes occurs in relatively small amounts while being thoroughly mixed with frequently numerous additional ingredients. As such glycerin seems unlikely to be able to form any kind of thick or regular coating on the teeth.
As to the glycerin content of bar soaps I have seen conflicting statements. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of the saponification process and may or may not be removed by the manufacturer. Glycerin-free soap is more skin-drying while glycerin-containing soap is more moisturizing. As Dr. Judd recommended using "any" bar soap, the smaller amounts of glycerin likely found at least in a number of them cannot have been of dental concern to him (and by extension, the small amounts contained in toothpaste are likely to be equally of no concern - but of course other ingredients are.13
Those who still wish to use guaranteed glycerin-free soap may want to read labels very carefully and/or enquire with the manufacturer.
Finally, one dentist writes that he has seen numerous patients' teeth remineralize using glycerin-containing toothpastes.
Using pH test strips
Some suggest using test strips to test one's saliva in the morning.
Also compare Products: "Remineralizers" for Teeth.
1 For an illustration of the pulp chamber, see Tooth.
2 compounding the effects of the lack of minerals and vitamins typically encountered in processed foods
3 For more on chewing, health and beauty, also compare Dr. F.X. Mayr’s research.
4 The Journal of Dental Research, Vol. 54, No. 4, 740-750 (1975) published a study titled "Effect of Radiation-Induced Xerostomia on Human Oral Microflora" (xerostomia = dry mouth) which showed that "[c]ariogenic microorganisms gained prominence at the expense of noncariogenic microorganisms in concert with the saliva shutdown." http://jdr.iadrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/54/4/740
6 Compare Causes of cancer: aspartame.
7 It is interesting to note that according to the teachings of the ancient Chinese art and science of qigong, saliva (referred to as 'jade liquid') is filled with life force energy (chi). Compare this amazingly simple but powerful self-healing technique involving visualization, intention and - saliva!
10 Quoted from Dr. Herbert Shelton on the true causes of tooth decay.
11 Healing Teeth Naturally strongly cautions against dental implant surgery.
12 A wonderful testimonial to the effectiveness of switching to soap brushing can be found under Brushing with bar soap cures severe gum disease (of 20 years standing with loss of teeth).
14 For background information, see The Natural Hygiene Approach to Healing: "The body heals itself"