Dr. Brusky Answers Paleo Fears: Will Grains Destroy My Teeth?

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Green Bay, WI – With the rise of alternative dietary philosophies, particularly primal, paleo, and keto, there is a great deal of confusion and anxiety about eating grains of any kind. Many people have gotten the idea that certain enzymes in grains can cause cavities, while others believe that any carbohydrates are absolutely detrimental, because they break down into acid-forming sugars. Dr. Brusky attempts to clear the air regarding this.

The Claims, Answered

  • Paleo and primal enthusiasts claim that an anti-nutrient (enzyme) called phytic acid binds to important minerals and vitamins, making it harder for humans to build and maintain healthy teeth. Wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, rye, and even nuts all contain significant amounts of phytate. In particular, calcium absorption and vitamin D levels can be decreased (Vitamin D is necessary for calcium uptake). To prevent phytate from leeching these nutrient from your teeth, you can simply soak your grains in whey or vinegar, to neutralize this acid. Fermentation (such as in real sourdough) also decreases phytate. Another option is to choose no or low-phytate grains such as millet, sorghum, corn, etc.
  • Consuming grains can prevent the kind of varied, nutrient dense diet that healthy teeth require. Now that concern, Dr. Brusky, posits–is a valid one. When people switch to Paleo, Primal, or any other ‘ancestral’ type diet, they become infinitely more aware of proper nutrition than ever before, including many more fruit, vegetables, and protein sources in their diet. This helps maintain a good balance of oral bacteria, allows the immune system to work properly, and benefits the teeth, among other systems in the body.

However, this is not a reason to forego unprocessed grains altogether. If anything, it is a reminder not to let any one type of food monopolize one’s diet. Include plenty of calcium sources, adequate protein, vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables and fruit–and your dental health will not be jeopardized by grain consumption in any way.

The Takeaway Message

  • In medicine and prevention, it is never a bad idea to question and experiment. This is how we will arrive at sustainable health, including dental health.
  • If you do not prefer grains or find it hard to brush regularly after ingesting these—don’t eat them. However, most people will crave and need some carbs in the diet. It’s not necessary to prohibit carbs for dental health.
  • If you have braces of any kind, avoid hard grains, such as popcorn, granola, and crusty breads–even fermented, or whole-grain types. This will help your braces and rubber bands to stay in place, preserving the integrity of your orthodontic treatment. Opt for cooked oats and steamed rice instead.
  • Grains are not necessarily worse than fruit or tubers for the teeth. All are rich in carbohydrates, which break down into sugar. If not dealt with through oral hygiene, these will cause the environment of your mouth to become acidic, breaking down enamel. It is imperative to brush and floss after ingesting any foods, but carb sources in particular. Wait twenty minutes before brushing after eating citrus, as the acid in it can make enamel sensitive to friction.
  • Look at the big holistic picture of health. Combining whole, unrefined grains (full of usable energy, fiber and B vitamins) and fruit (vitamins and phytonutrients) with proper oral hygiene–you will obtain a regime you can keep up indefinitely.

If you have any dental problems caused by oats, rice, bread, etc, contact our office and schedule your appointment today.

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