Like other chronic diseases, dental caries – tooth decay – is largely preventable. With that in mind, read it and weep:
Over 40% of more than 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed believe they have little or no control over whether they get a cavity, according to a new Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) survey released February 4.
In fact, only 57% of respondents even believe they have “significant control” over getting a cavity.
Why so much helplessness?
Sure, lack of “education” may have something to do with it. But you have to wonder some about the role of orthodox dentistry’s emphasis on stop-gap measures such as fluoride and sealants. Such things do nothing to address the root cause of caries. They’re attempts to minimize the damage of poor diet and home hygiene. They’re distractions. As Sheiham and James put it in their 2015 paper, published in the Journal of Dental Research,
The importance of sugars as a cause of caries is underemphasized and not prominent in preventive strategies. This is despite overwhelming evidence of its unique role in causing a worldwide caries epidemic. Why this neglect? One reason is that researchers mistakenly consider caries to be a multifactorial disease; they also concentrate mainly on mitigating factors, particularly fluoride. However, this is to misunderstand that the only cause of caries is dietary sugars. These provide a substrate for cariogenic oral bacteria to flourish and to generate enamel-demineralizing acids. Modifying factors such as fluoride and dental hygiene would not be needed if we tackled the single cause — sugars.
Of course, that’s exactly what Dr. Weston Price demonstrated many decades ago. Rampant caries, crooked teeth, and other dental disorders arise with the decline of traditional diets and the introduction of refined sugar and white flour. Modern archaeological findings bear this out, as well.
And it’s not just that sugar and white flour feed the microbes that cause decay or interfere with the absorption of calcium and magnesium, two critical nutrients for dental health. They also tend to displace the kinds of nutrient-dense foods our bodies use to fight decay on their own.
Greater attention to diet, nutrition, and other lifestyle factors that affect oral health could do more for people’s teeth than fluoride could ever accomplish.
You also have to wonder if some of the resignation to decay stems from the failures of the stop-gap measures. Even with fluoridated water and toothpaste the norm, caries remains the number one infectious disease among American children. Almost every adult will experience tooth decay at some point in their lives.
They use fluoride. They rely on sealants. They still get cavities. They do what their told, and their problems persist.
In such a dynamic, it’s easy to learn to feel helpless, to think of decay as not much more than a matter of luck.
It helps, of course, that we live in a society that tends to see dentistry – like medicine – as something that’s done to us. We’re not used to taking responsibility for our own health. If something goes wrong, we expect the doctor to fix it, even if that just means fixing damage or quelling symptoms without ever really treating their cause. We accept our passivity. We buy the lie that health is something created from the outside, not something generated from within.
But we can – and, we believe, should – take responsibility. We are each the author of our own health and well-being. We owe it to ourselves to accept that role.
We’re certainly not helpless. We may need help to get going in the right direction – to get the right nutritional information, to get guidance on supplements and remedies that may help our bodies return to health, to deal with any dental situations that may be interfering with the process.
A doctor can teach, guide, provide. But your body – a self-regulating organism – does the real work of creating and sustaining real health.
You CAN do it.
Image by Mandy Jouan, via Flickr