Our common understanding of the decay process focuses on how changes in the oral environment impact the bacteria to cause mineral loss, and thus cavities. While this is not an incorrect assertion, a new study done by Dr. Ralph R. Steinman and Dr. John Leonora suggests the host resistance may be more important than the oral environment to the process.
In this study, Dr. Steinman and Dr. Lenora tested on animals and found that our teeth, like the rest of our body, are equipped with particular biologic processes to protect themselves. They call the process dentinal fluid transport. Dentinal fluid transport involves a ‘dentinal tubular fluid flow’ which is described as a “continuous movement of nourishing interstitial liquid flowing from the dental pulp outward through the dentinal tubules and enamel and into the mouth.”
In other words, a liquid that flows into the mouth via the dental pulp through the enamel that naturally prevents cavity formation. They believe this flowing of fluid is the teeth’s own defense against cavities because:
- The fluid inhibits acids and harmful microorganisms from getting inside the tooth.
- Since its pH is 7.4, it acts as a buffer that neutralizes bacterial acids and therefore it carries out a continuous self-cleaning action.
- It also provides nutrients sourced from the blood which are essential for dentinal health.
Drs Steinman and Lenora believe it’s only when this transport system experiences a malfunction that cavities are formed. They aren’t saying that external factors don’t affect the tooth, they’re saying that it’s when the fluid flow is interrupted that decay begins. Therefore bacteria’s role in tooth decay is seen as opportunistic – it starts to ‘colonize’ the tooth due to the tooth’s weakened resistance.
Based on this information, how can we prevent cavities?
- Avoid high amounts of sugar. Sugar is said to reverse dentinal fluid transport. The study suggested that if you are going to eat sucrose to ‘hide’ it in your food. If the sugar isn’t eaten by itself and instead eaten in a meal, some of the fluid will be released. The percentage released will be dependent on how much sugar is in the meal, the micronutrient content, as well as your individual genetics..
- Watch your stress. Stress is said to interrupt the dentinal fluid transport. Several studies have cited the link between dental caries and stress. There is a connection between stress and tooth decay found by various researchers. Meditation, as well as general stress reduction, has been linked to improved oral health.
- Emphasize exercise. Exercise increases dentinal fluid movement as well as reduces excessive sugar present in the blood. Exercising can therefore help reduce your caries risk.
- Make sure to get your macronutrients. Without minerals such as copper, magnesium, iron and manganese, cavity formation is more likely. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet to decrease the likelihood of dental caries.
Our bodies are amazing organisms. The fact that our teeth contain a powerful anti-cavity, or protective agent is incredible news. By supporting our own natural systems, we can help protect ourselves from tooth decay. If you are interested in learning more about biological dental care and protective measures you can take, contact us today.