tooth anatomy

Too Much Sweetness Weakens Defenses

Americans eat more sugar than anyone else in the world. Our average daily intake of 126.4 grams puts us well ahead of the pack. Convert it to calories and it adds up to 506.

A day.

Just from sugar.

The stuff that fuels all manner of chronic disease, including tooth decay.

Yet did you know your teeth have a back-up plan to protect their interests?

Dentinal Fluid Transport, A/K/A Natural Caries Resistance Theory

Enter Dr. Ralph Steinman.

Nearly 50 years ago, Steinman suspected teeth might have a back-up plan, an internal defense that might kick in if they became threatened. His theory took note from the body’s blood supply, noting how blood travels the body like a car on a highway, routed to where it’s needed.

tooth anatomyBut before digging in further, a crash course on tooth anatomy.

A tooth has three layers: the hard outer enamel, the delicate pulp at the center, and between these, a semi-hard layer of dentin. This last tissue is made of tiny tubules. They look kind of like microscopic straws stacked together.

These tubules are most abundant and dense near the pulp chamber and contain fluid – mainly cytoplasm. This fluid passes through the membranes of a type of cell called odontoblasts. These cells form the inner pulp and help make new dentin around it.

In a healthy exchange, dentinal fluid flows from the pulp through the tubules and eventually through the enamel. This, Steinman noted, draws nutrients from the blood vessels in the pulp and delivers them into the dentin.

Further, this outward flow of nutrient-rich fluid naturally repels microbes and neutralizes the acids they generate.

Natural defense.

But while that sounds fool-proof, many of us will still get cavities. What gives?

What gives is a reversal of outward flow. Instead of the fluid repelling harmful microbes and the acids they generate, the backwards flow pulls them into the tooth.

What causes such an about-face in fluid exchange? A few things:

  • Diet, particularly too much sugar and other carbs.
  • Chronic stress.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Some pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Vitamin, mineral and micronutrient deficiency.

Did We Just Close the Loop?

And there we are, at the beginning again: Our diet and lifestyle choices affect the ability of the teeth to defend themselves from the inside out. To give our teeth a fighting chance, we need to provide it what it needs most: nutrients.

Eating 506 empty calories of sugar a day just doesn’t cut it.

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