It’s hard to start a review of this book because there is just SO MUCH to write about! I learned a lot from this book, and I highly, highly recommend it, even if you don’t have any issues with your teeth. There’s great advice about diet and oral hygiene: myths are busted, nutritional details are dissected, truths are discovered. It is not the most exciting or suspenseful read, but still well worth it.
Ramiel Nagel, the author, is not a nutritionist or a dentist or even a doctor, but his interest in curing and preventing tooth decay came about when his daughter suffered from multiple cavities and teeth rotting so badly they were turning black. From fear that she would lose many teeth, Ramiel began researching the works of Westin A. Price and Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions) for help. What he found he applied to himself and his family and he had such success in turning around their oral health that he passed on his newfound knowledge in his book.
Here are the biggest things I took away from this book:
- All grains contain an element known as phytic acid. Phytic acid is a snowflake-shaped molecule that acts as a sweeper arm, attaching itself to calcium, magnesium, and other essential vitamins and minerals in our body and literally sweeping them away so that we cannot absorb them. So even if your grains naturally contain good elements (or are fortified with them, which is a separate issue I’ll get to), they are not absorbed by our bodies because phytic acid steals them. Even the good elements floating around in our bodies are swept away by the cheeky phytic acid. Such a little swipper, that acid! This is the main reason why grains are really not good for us, despite what the grain industry tells us about how many good nutrients are in grains. Yes, the good stuff is in there, no doubt about it, but it our bodies can’t absorb it then it does us no good. Which brings me to my second biggest learning point…
- All the elements we consume are not going to serve us unless we can absorb them properly. This one is really fascinating to me. Did you know you can consume all the Vitamin A you want, all day long, but unless it is taken with Vitamin D it is not going to be absorbed? Too much Vitamin A without enough Vitamin D can actually be toxic! This is just one example of how vitamins and minerals need a symbiotic relationship in order to do their good thang for us. They cannot act alone – they need a buddy, a specific buddy, in order to be successful. Also, back to fortified foods – when we add vitamins and minerals to foods that don’t normally have them, our bodies don’t recognize them and don’t absorb them. This is also the case for a lot of vitamins and supplements – when they are not in food, a lot of the time our bodies just don’t understand what they’re getting so they don’t use them. Synthetic vitamins are often received as toxins to our bodies, which is why, Ramiel states, sometimes the odor or color of our urine can be a bit “off” after consuming a multi-vitamin. It’s not that all supplements are bad, but be sure to select one that is food-based, does not have any sugar added, and take in compliment with a rich diet of quality whole foods from which we should be getting the bulk of our vitamins and minerals anyway.
- Diet has as much to do with oral health as hygiene. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around the following point – tooth decay is not caused by sugar sitting on your teeth. Tooth decay is caused by sugar replacing the essential vitamins and minerals in our bodies that help our teeth. It is our bodies processing the sugar and using all our good stuff to process it, rather than sending good stuff to our teeth to make them healthy. In other words, when we have a good diet full of good, absorbable vitamins and minerals, our teeth are healthy and strong. When we miss out on those good vitamins and minerals because we’re consuming sugar (and grains), our teeth not only miss out on receiving good stuff but our bodies must also take good stuff that is already there in order to get the toxins out of our systems. When we consume bad stuff we’re hit with a double punch: first missing out on introducing new good stuff, second being robbed of the good stuff that’s already there. Crazy right?
- We’re doing oral hygiene all wrong. Brushing teeth is great for removing plaque… but it also pushes plaque up under the gum line. So does flossing – think about it. You’re using a little string to try to pull plaque from a tight space. You’ll get most of it, but the flossing action itself is literally pushing the plaque up to your gums. Ramiel Nagel outlines lots of oral hygiene techniques that serve us much better than the old-school brushing and flossing. I won’t go into the specifics (otherwise you have no incentive to read the book!) but the things I’m starting to try are oil pulling, oral irrigating (Water Pik) with salt water, and herbal powder treatments applied to the gums. Treating our gums well is most important – without a strong neck, the head is floppy. Without strong gums, even healthy teeth can be lost. Also, oral hygiene is not the “be all and end all” solution to oral health that we’ve been taught: “Cleaning teeth will change the environment of your month and it can help slow down the problem [of decay], but it does not stop the original cause of tooth decay.” Caring for your whole self, through a quality, balanced diet and managed self-care is essential to completing the holistic oral health picture. Definitely don’t stop cleaning your mouth! But re-thinking why we use the methods we use and how they are actually successful (or not) is a great step in the right direction.
The only thing I struggled with while reading this book is all the diary. We’re dairy-free right now but Ramiel Nagel recommends lots of raw, grass-fed dairy in order to get a big calcium boost and essential vitamins A and D. There are not a lot of diary-free alternatives given but there are some – diary-free folks are not completely left out of the picture which is really nice. I worry that we’re not able to get enough calcium from vegetables, since we have to consume a ton of calcium-rich veggies to get what we could get from a cup or two of raw milk and some butter. I really hope to get back to raw dairy later this year, if it seems like Kiddo1 can handle it, but until then I guess we’ll just have to really try to get enough veggies. A calcium supplement would be nice, but per #2 above we probably won’t be able to absorb much of it since it will have to be from a synthetic source that does not contain the casein and whey protein that we’re avoiding. (And yes, raw dairy is safe, not scary, contains way more good stuff than pastured, which removes the good and has to be fortified with vitamins… but I digress.)
Overall, this book gives me great hope for the future of our dental health. There are TONS of reviews out there from people who have taken on the Cure Tooth Decay protocol and have seen cavities harden over, dental pain disappear, and dentists who are shocked and amazed at the results from diet and hygiene changes. I’m slowly starting to implement some of these tools with my family – Kiddo1 and I have been taking fermented cod liver oil for a few weeks now and the occasional complaint from him about a sore tooth has gone away. Once he switches up his hygiene routine (it’s taking some convincing) I think he’ll be in even better shape.