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In the chronic illness community, many patients struggle with dental health issues. I have had my fair share of dental issues, including recurrent cavitation infections and three cavitation surgeries over the past six years. Throughout my journey with Lyme disease and chronic illness, I’ve learned just how great an impact oral infections and dental health can have on whole-body well being. Due to my personal health journey and my clinical experience working with clients who have dental health issues, I’ve developed a deep understanding of the impact nutrition has on dental health and post-surgery healing. In this article, you’ll learn how to use nutrition to optimize your healing process after dental procedures such as cavitation surgery, so you can “clean up” your mouth and enjoy long-term dental health.
An Ancestral, Anti-Inflammatory Diet Supports Dental Health
I recommend that my clients who are preparing for dental surgery, or are already in recovery from surgery, eat an anti-inflammatory ancestral-style diet to support their dental health. My nutritional approach to dental health is based on the revolutionary work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a forward-thinking dentist who traveled the world in the early 20th century, identifying components of traditional diets that contributed to dental health in hunter-gatherers and other populations living traditional lifestyles. If you haven’t yet read his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, I highly recommend checking it out! Also, if you are interested in learning more about the relationship between food, jaw formation, your bite, and long-term health, check out Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic by Sandra Kahn and Paul R. Ehrlich.
I recommend centering your anti-inflammatory diet around the following foods:
Meat and poultry from pasted animals (including organ meats such as liver, which is rich in vitamin K2, a crucial nutrient for dental health)
Wild-caught or sustainably-sourced seafood
Eggs (preferably organic or pastured)
Full-fat dairy products (if you tolerate dairy)
Non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, green onions, mushrooms
Whole fruits, particularly berries
Blueberries contain phytochemicals that may help protect against dental plaque formation. (1)
Moderate amounts of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, winter squash, plantains, cassava, rutabaga, parsnips, and white potatoes
Fresh nuts and seeds
Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, seafood, ghee and butter (if you tolerate dairy)
Small amounts of gluten-free grains, if tolerated
Small amounts of properly-prepared legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils, if tolerated.
Drink plenty of filtered water. I prefer Berkey water filters because you can order special fluoride filters to install in addition to the carbon filters. Excess fluoride in tap water is not good for our teeth.
Vitamin D is critical for several aspects of dental health, including alveolar bone formation, the maintenance of healthy tooth enamel, and protection against oral pathogens. (4) Supplementation with vitamin D3 may also increase the bone mineral density of the jaws. Inactivation of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), a process that can be initiated by VDR mutations and microbial immunosuppression, is associated with degenerative osteolysis of the jawbone (aka dental “cavitations”). (5) I personally have several VDR mutations that reduce my body’s ability to utilize circulating vitamin D; I strongly suspect that these mutations contributed to the development of my own cavitations after the removal of my wisdom teeth in high school.
In a recent article published in the International Journal of Dentistry, the researchers found that vitamin D sufficiency significantly improve healing outcomes after dental surgery (see the quote below). I suspect that vitamin D sufficiency is also crucial for optimizing healing outcomes after cavitation surgery and other dental procedures.
If you are currently low on vitamin D and need to boost your levels before dental surgery, I recommend taking a combination vitamin D3/vitamin K2 product such as Pure Encapsulations Synergy K or Quicksilver Scientific’s Nanoemulsified D3K2.
Vitamin D-loaded microspheres (a type of nutraceutical delivery system) have been found to upregulate VDR expression and alleviate periodontal inflammatory infiltrate and bone loss in a rat model of periodontitis. (6) This finding suggests that for people with periodontitis and VDR mutations, micro- or nano-sized vitamin D formulations may be particularly effective for improving dental health.
You should have your vitamin D level measured several months prior to your surgery so that, if your level is insufficient, you have time to boost it before the surgery. I learned this the hard way with my three dental cavitation surgeries; each time, my vitamin D level was too low beforehand, and my jawbone and oral tissues were unable to heal properly as a result. I recommend a serum vitamin D level in the 40-60 ng/mL range. The amount of supplemental vitamin D you’ll need to take to achieve this level will depend on your genetics, gut health, and level of inflammation.
Importantly, you should also take steps to eliminate microbes that may be contributing to VDR deactivation, such as Borrelia burgdorferi and EBV. Deactivation of VDR by these microbes contributes to the chronically low 25(OH) D levels that precede and perpetuate poor dental health and dental infections.
Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) works in concert with vitamin D to support bone remodeling and oral health. (7) A growing body of research indicates that vitamin K2 plays critical roles in “tooth epigenetics.” (8) Vitamin K2 is found primarily in animal-based and fermented foods, including dark chicken meat, egg yolks, butter, cheese, goose liver, and natto, a form of fermented soy. (9)
If you don’t routinely eat these foods (I’m assuming most people don’t), I recommend supplementing with a combination vitamin D/vitamin K2 supplement such as Quicksilver Scientific’s Nanoemulsified D3K2.
Most people realize that calcium is crucial for bone and tooth health. The RDA for calcium is 1000 mg per day for men and women between the ages of 19 and 50 years; the need for calcium is increased in children, adolescents, and older adults. Calcium is vital for the proper development and maintenance of hard dental tissues, bony tooth sockets, and the jawbone.
Calcium is one nutrient with which I do NOT recommend supplementing, as high-dose calcium supplementation has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (10) Instead, get your calcium from bone-in fish such as sardines, dark leafy greens, sesame seeds/tahini, almonds, and (if you can tolerate dairy) full-fat pastured dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, and cheeses.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been found to reduce alveolar bone resorption in an animal model of periodontal disease, indicating that omega-3’s are important for dental health. (11) I recommend an intake of 3-4 grams of EPA + DHA per day to optimize the integrity of the alveolar bone in your mouth.
Green tea has been found to improve oral health by increasing the activity of oral peroxidases, preventing the development and progession of periodontitis, a severe gum infection that destroys soft tissue and bone. (12)
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2 for short!) is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins in the body, particularly glutathione. Recent research indicates that Nrf2 activation supports oral health by anchoring teeth in their sockets and (fascinatingly!) preventing relapse of teeth after orthodontic treatment (13) There are a variety of Nrf2 activators that you can include in your diet, including sulforaphane (found in broccoli sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables) and green tea.
I use a variety of botanicals in my clinical nutrition practice to help my clients support their dental health. Artemisinin, a compound derived from the Artemisia annua plant, has potent antimicrobial activities against oral pathogens. (14) Manuka honey has cariostatic (stops the formation of dental caries) effects. (15) My favorite brand of Manuka honey is Wedderspoon Manuka honey.
Fascinating research suggests that probiotics may support the health of teeth and oral tissues by enhancing host resistance to oral infections, inhibiting biofilm formation, and preventing cavities. (16) Whether you are preparing for dental surgery or looking to optimize your long-term dental health, I recommend eating probiotic-rich fermented foods and supplementing with a high-quality probiotic, such as those offered by Klaire Labs.
Are you preparing for dental surgery and want to optimize your healing process? I create personalized nutrition protocols for clients who are undergoing dental surgery and looking to optimize their long-term dental health. To learn more about this unique service, schedule a free 15-minute exploratory call with me today or visit the Clinical Nutrition Services page of my website!
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