A couple weeks ago, we took a quick look at S. mutans, the microbe largely responsible for causing tooth decay. As mentioned, this is just one of 25 species of strep – and more than 600 kinds of microbe total – found in the human mouth.
But not all of those “bugs” are bad. In fact, just this year, scientists pinpointed two enzymes produced by S. salivarius and other non-biofilm forming microbes that actually inhibit the growth of S. mutans. They found that when sucrose – a sugar – was present, these enzymes (FruA and FTF) worked to keep S. mutans from colonizing and forming dental biofilm (plaque). (The full text of the study is available here.)
And your teeth have other natural protections, as well. For instance, one of the functions of saliva is to wash debris from your teeth. If you don’t produce enough, your teeth become more vulnerable to decay. This is the case with habitual mouth breathers, for instance, and those who take prescription medications, many of which include dry mouth as a “side effect.” Similarly, the flow of fluids within your teeth normally repels pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes. Everything changes, however, when you eat a lot of sugar, white flour products and other refined, fermentable carbohydrates. As conditions in the mouth grow more acidic, the flow actually reverses. Pathogens and their toxic byproducts are pulled into the tooth.
And just as some dietary choices can lead to cavities, gum disease and other oral problems, others can help prevent cavities and promote remineralization of the teeth. The key is diet rich in minerals (especially calcium and phosphorous) and fat-soluble vitamins (especially D and K). For more on the subject, check out this post over at The Holistic Dentist.