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Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet? I am troubled by the Weston A. Price Foundation’s claim. –Megan

From Robyn: I have noticed observationally that those on a long-term 100% vegan diet sometimes have dental problems. I do not think that this diet is necessary. (I wonder if there are good cooked plant foods that may be helpful to our health that can prevent deficiency, which people throughout time have utilized–grains and legumes, for instance.)

Nor do I think the evidence points conclusively to human beings needing meat, far from it, in the face of the Oxford-Cornell China Study. If you feel compelled eat animal flesh, it’s still clear that it MUST be organic and it must be minimal. Not three times a day as many Americans do.

(And I have noticed that when most people say “meat,” they mean beef and pork. When I say meat, I refer to the flesh of all animals.) Most people are B12 deficient, but the idea that vegetarians are deficient overlooks the fact that most meat eaters are, too. 80%+ of people in America are B12 deficient, in fact.

I don’t eat meat and I am not B12 deficient. I haven’t had a cavity in years (although my Sonic toothbrush may share in the credit for that—those things are amazing). My dentist says my teeth are “naturally white,” and when I go in for cleanings, I’ve been told twice, “I don’t know why you even come in, because you have no plaque on your teeth.” None of this was the case before I cleaned up my diet.

While the Weston A. Price research found that people who eat meat, among indigenous peoples, had strong teeth, we cannot compare that to modern populations and draw the conclusions that we should eat the kind of animal flesh that modern people do.

What we eat, and what people living far from a processed diet did at the time of Price’s studies, are terribly different. Today’s animals used for food are caged in tiny, filthy pens, and are full of antibiotics, hormones, and terrible diets of genetically modified grains or diseased animal parts. We cannot assume that because the native people Price studied had clean animal flesh in their diets, that means we can eat lots of dirty animal flesh and achieve strong teeth (and bones).

I have more to say, but local Dr. Garon Larson, D.D.S., says it better, in response to Megan’s question:

“Can I respond to Megan’s question about teeth?

I am a local general dentist who drinks green smoothies and eats whole foods and a plant-based diet with my family.   I was on ABC4 morning news yesterday and KSL noon news segment for children’s dental health awareness month (Feb).   The news anchor asked me what parents can do to help children have healthy teeth.   My answer:   Stop feeding your children the Standard America Diet, which is processed foods from cans and boxes, processed sugars, and fast food.   Give your kids real food to eat.   Absolutely the best thing you can do for your teeth, mouth, and body.   Healthy teeth are really important when eating a whole foods diet because this is real food and you need strong healthy teeth to chew and break down the food to digest it well and absorb the nutrients (unless you want to blend everything up in your Blendtec!).

Teeth form when we are very young, almost all permanent teeth have completed development of crown and most of the root by the age of 6-8 years old.   Good nutrition (from whole foods) is so important for our young children.   After tooth development, we are mainly talking about maintaining the teeth, which is removing food and debris which gets left on our teeth (biofilm).   Standard American Diet is very hard on teeth as full of refined carbohydrates and refined sugars, which the normal flora (normal bacteria) in our mouths use as fuel and metabolize these substances, giving off acid as a byproduct.   The acid demineralizes the teeth and begins the decay process.   Chewing whole foods which are fibrous stimulates the gum tissues, has a natural lavaging effect on them, and promotes healthy gums.

There is absolutely no need for animal products for healthy teeth or gums.   I received a certificate from E Cornell University last year in Plant-Based Diet and I can confidently say that and I am confident in the way my family eats…that’s the way my kids eat and they have great teeth!

Hope this helps put your mind at ease!

Dr. Garon Larsen”

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