Did Our Caveman Ancestors Have Better Teeth Than We Do?

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I get a lot of questions about dental hygiene and health, and for good reason. Dental records of our paleolithic ancestors show a fairly low incidence of caries when compared to modern teeth. Exceptions exist, but the general trends suggest that Grok had better teeth than the average contemporary human. Of course, when cavities struck back then, they hit hard and got really ugly, because there were no dentists, drills, or x-rays to fix the problem, but most never got to that point. Also, the adoption of agriculture is generally associated with the emergence of poor dental health, so much so that many researchers use the appearance of dental caries in a population as strong evidence for the presence of farming. Maize/corn is particularly bad, as is wheat, but the same relationship may not hold true for rice agriculture in Asian records.

Okay — let’s take a look at a couple common questions I get about dental health:

Mark, this morning as a dental assistant was making my head buzz and my gums hurt with some sort of ultrasonic tooth cleaner, I thought, “what can Grok teach us about tooth care?” Something tells me Grok did not brush his teeth — did he do anything to take care of himself in that way? And if he survived just fine, what does that tell us about “conventional wisdom” that says we should adopt a routine, and buy a medicine cabinet full of stuff to take care of our teeth? I certainly don’t mean to convey that tooth care is bad — but rather am just thinking about what we can learn from the past to harmonize the present.

Thanks for reading this, and thank you for your dedication to better health!

Hey Mark! I’ve recently taken an interest in making my oral regimen more Primal. I’ve read up on a lot of the more natural toothpastes and toothpaste alternatives but I’m undecided. What have you and your wife found to be the safest and most effective way to keep your cavities at bay?? Thanks!

Before resorting to anything reactive, whether it be brushing with homemade toothpaste, dousing your oral cavity with anti-bacterial mouthwash, bypassing the teeth altogether with an IV nutrient feed, or using a dental dam to chew, those seeking excellent dental health should establish a strong dietary foundation of the minerals, micronutrients, and other cofactors that play major roles in the maintenance of teeth.

The Vitamin D/A/K2 Connection

You’ve probably heard about how this holy trinity of micronutrients works together to promote proper bone and tooth mineralization, which means putting calcium and other minerals where they belong (bones, teeth) instead of where they don’t (arteries, dental calculus/plaque). Both Stephan Guyenet and Chris Masterjohn have written extensively about the synergistic interplay between the three nutritional factors, so I’ll keep this brief. Get adequate midday sun or take vitamin D supplements; eat grass-fed butter, hard cheeses, and organs (especially goose liver, apparently), or supplement with vitamin K2; get plenty of vitamin A from liver, egg yolks, and other animal products.

Grain Avoidance

I probably don’t have to tell you to avoid grains, but for any newcomers who might be reading: ditch the grains, beans, and other legumes that contain high levels of phytic acid, which is known to bind to and prevent absorption of minerals critical for dental health. Nuts also contain phytic acid, but we tend not to eat as many nuts as grains or legumes due to the caloric load. It’s a lot easier to eat two cups of whole wheat than it is to eat two cups of almonds. If you do eat nuts on a regular basis, consider soaking and/or sprouting them to reduce phytic acid content.

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