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Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet?

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Feb 13, 2012

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”

Posted in: Nutrition, Parenting, Raw Food, Research

12 thoughts on “Will my teeth go bad on a raw diet?”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “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.”

    The Weston A. Price foundation itself makes this conclusion, extremely forcefully, as well. You will not see recommendations from the Weston A. Price foundation to eat factory-farmed meat. They proclaim constantly that all animal products MUST be pasture-fed/organic from a small family farm.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Yes they do. Katie, you should write us a report on WAPF versus China Study, or the strengths/weaknesses of WAPF’s aging research. You know more about it than I do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Do you think radically changing a person’s diet (to consuming plenty of green smoothies and plant-based meals) can fix cavities? Does a person NEED to go to a dentist, or can they fix cavities naturally like this?

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Amy, I do not think that drinking green smoothies will repair cavities, no.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is in interesting topic. I looked into this a while ago, when I started getting tooth sensitivity, related to green smoothies. What I found, through internet searches, was repeated anecdotal evidence, that the body detoxifies through the teeth, so that teeth become sensitive initially (as the body detoxifies). But then, teeth can also remineralize on a raw food diet, reversing caries/tooth decay. If I remember correctly, grain consumption somewhat interferes with this process, so the more grain consumed, the less likely teeth will improve on the raw food diet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Robyn. In 7 months of following the (mostly) raw food diet. I am getting better and better. I did have questions about my teeth so this article you shared is timely. Honestly, it is all common sense, once I have someone like you and those you quote, explain it. Thanks so much. Lynn

  5. The Weston A. Price Foundation puts great emphasis on quality animal foods, animals on un-sprayed pasture, fed their natural diet, in their natural habitat, without drugs, hormones or chemicals of any kind. This goes for dairy animals, meat animals, eggs etc. The research of Weston Price found that the healthiest people, the ones most free from dental disease were those who had animal products in their diet. Most of the people he studied, however, were not big meat eaters(as in beef and pork) Most of them ate eggs, seafood, grubs, blood, milk, cheese, butter, bone broth and organ meats(particularly liver). He makes it a point to mention that in times of plenty many groups of people would leave the muscle meat to the scavengers after harvesting organs, fur and bones. Meat was not a prized food. WAPF does not tell you to eat meat. In fact, many members do not eat meat, but see the value in eating animal products (and corresponding true Vitamin A, D, K) through raw dairy, eggs, butter, cheese, and cod liver oil. The diets of the people he studied had over 10 times the amounts of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), the richest sources being animal foods. Meat is probably the poorest source of these vitamins compared to the more prized animal foods like butter, cheese, eggs, organ meats and seafood. Meat is NOT emphasized by WAPF, that is a misunderstanding. As always, if you are eating animal products, the highest quality matters for all the reasons GSG talks about (concentrated pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, inhumane treatment) WAPF despises factory farmed animal foods just as much as GSG and wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Deena, well said. For the record, I think WAPF does great work and everyone should take note of Dr. Price’s significant research and findings.

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is a good book on this subject of diets affect on teeth health, its called Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. Worth a read.

  7. Initial decay only in the enamel of the tooth can be remineralized and reversed, but usually these small lesions in the enamel do not cause teeth to be sensitive. Once decay has passed through the enamel and into the dentin, it is irreversible. The only way to repair the tooth is to carefully remove the affected parts of the tooth and seal it back up with a filling. I have seen people try to treat a cavity with natural remedies and holistic supplements, which may sometimes lessen the sensitivity or dull the sensation from that tooth, but the cavity will continue to progress and sometimes can lead to a much bigger problem. Even if you are eating what you think is a healthy diet, find a dentist you trust and see him regularly for check ups. Healthy teeth are so important for eating a whole foods diet, and a whole foods diet is so good for your teeth!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I was on a high raw diet (having green smoothies at least once a day) and experienced tooth sensitivity that went from mild to unbearable, and it had little to do with detoxification. This really frustrated me as I was eating so well (so I thought) and had never been into junk/processed food prior to my raw venture. I started eating grass-fed meat and copious amounts of butter and coconut oil and the sensitivity is just about gone and I hope it will be totally gone soon.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was vegan for years and had no tooth problems. After being paleo for a year and a half I now have cavities. I feel like its the heavy acid load leaching calcium from my bones. I hope drinking more green smoothies can help repair this imbalance.

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