I got the following question recently, from a reader who has gone through a tough time with his teeth.
Here’s the email I received, with my answer below:
I have been a vegetarian/vegan for 22 years- since I was 13: and there I was, feeling happy that in this area of my life, maybe I was being a good influence, but some chickens seem to have come home to roost. I just returned from my dentist and although I realize people are going through much worse, I am devastated by the news he has given me. I have decay on “all of my teeth”. My dentist suggested I check my bones! He told me the old adage about cow’s milk being essential- but how can I question him when he is the one with perfect teeth! Some of my teeth are basically shells and if he does not help, some near the front will be lost-at the age of 35 years old.
Although I try to take care of myself, the symptoms are usually seen in someone older. I stopped using fluoride toothpaste after hearing knowledge from those in the natural health community. I have to have a crown. I can’t believe he is talking to health-conscious me. My dentist said that these were the patterns they used to see in the 1950s before they discovered fluoride. He is right in saying that there has got to be a root cause. I don’t know what to do. Something is very wrong and the only person I can turn to is a dentist who is already advising me to do things with which I am uncomfortable.
After waxing lyrical about health knowledge for so long, I feel like an embarrassment and I wish I did not have to tell my family, including my brother, who has just decided to become a vegetarian. However, without their help, I cannot afford treatment.
I feel like extractions may be the way I am heading and saving them will be a fight. The dentist has also advised me that mercury fillings are better that white ones because they adhere better, will not leave gaps for bacteria and will stop my teeth from crumbling in the future. He says they are now safe and that the US government did some research. I don’t want mercury fillings, but I will seem like a difficult patient if I do not go along with what he says.
My tooth could break out into an abscess at any time. I wish God could do a miracle for me and restore them! Please God. I don’t want to lose my teeth… 🙁 I am disgusted that I have the teeth of a sweet-eating, fizzy drink swilling, non-tooth brushing person decades older. Why? Is it because I am a vegan? I really don’t know what else I can do. X-rays are bad; x-rays are needed; juices are bad; juices are good, fluoride is bad, fluoride is good; foods are bad; foods are good. I am lost….
I can totally understand what you’re feeling right now, because I have been there too, although in a different way. Here’s my thinking.
Not every vegetarian or vegan gets all the dental problems you’ve had. Raw foodists often get similar problems because of the amount of sugar they consume. Remember that sugar, in all its forms (even coming from fruit), will feed the bacteria that cause dental decay.
It’s important to understand that tooth decay is actually a disease. Some people are more prone to the disease, and others seem to have cavity-resistant teeth no matter what they do.
A lot of people in the natural health movement try to change little things that typically can’t affect their health very much, because they’ve bought into the conspiracy theories that they’ve read somewhere online.
Let me give you some example.
Many health foodists try to change *everything*. They want to make sure that their diet and their environment is as pure as possible. So they eat organic food, they eat raw foods, they buy so-called “natural” toothpastes, they avoid GMOs, they walk barefoot, they get a lot of sun on their bodies, and so on.
Some of these practices have real benefits. Other practices have few measurable benefits, and are done mainly because of fear of some particular substance. Other practices are actually ill-advised, especially in certain cases.
In your particular case, your fear of fluoride is actually costing your teeth. Although fluoride has been the target of many attacks by the natural food movement, leading to the widespread use of fluoride-free toothpastes in raw foodists and vegetarians, it is not the villain that the industry is trying to portray.
I’m not talking about adding fluoride to drinking water, which is questionable. I’m talking about the topical use of fluoride to prevent tooth decay, especially in individuals like you who are especially prone to tooth decay (at this particular stage in your life).
There’s a reason why using fluoride externally is recommended by almost all dentists: it works. Certainly, when I experienced a lot of dental decay about 10 years ago, going back to a fluoride toothpaste is one of the things I did that saved my teeth. Fluoride in toothpaste (used once or twice a day) can be especially important for raw foodists because it helps remineralize teeth that have been eroded by acids. And we know there’s plenty of acids in the raw food diet: citrus, apple cider vinegar, limes, lemons, other acid fruits. Fluoride in toothpaste will also fight the germs in plaque, not just while you’re brushing your teeth but throughout the day.
There are always two sides to a story, and it’s important to research both sides before making up you’re mind. You’ve read the conspiracy theories about fluoride, but look where it has led you. In your particular case, using fluoride on your teeth may be one of the only things you can still do to save them. (Read: http://doctorspiller.com/Fluoride/fluoride.htm)
At this point, your dentist would probably advise to also use a fluoride mouth rinse once a day, until the tooth decay gets under control. You have to get your teeth fixed. I don’t think mercury fillings are necessary, but it’s true that mercury-fillings don’t last very long. I’ve had all my teeth fixed with mercury free fillings and I get at least one filling breaking every year, needing to be replaced with a new one. However, I think you could visit a few dentists to find some alternatives in your options for fillings.
Your problems are not specifically caused by your vegan diet (although, you didn’t tell me what you eat, so there is no way to tell). But in your case, it’s clear that the advice you got in the natural health movement didn’t work. Leave the conspiracy theories behind for a little bit. A tooth paste containing fluoride is NOT going to harm your health in any way. But letting your teeth crumbles will have negative repercussions that will affect your health for the rest of your life. The choice is yours, but I personally know what I would do if I were you…
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