From Biosis 9, March 2006
Dr. Verigin’s Comment:
What’s Behind the Rise in Youth Tooth Decay?
by Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
Recently in the Modesto Bee [February 2006], reporter Ken Carlson noted that “according to a survey released earlier this month, eight out of 10 third-graders (80%) in a 12-county region including Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties have a history of tooth decay.” Thirty-five percent had at least seven cavities, 38% had untreated dental problems and 4% were in pain when they were examined and urgently needed treatment.
After reading this article – headlined “Dire Dental Dilemma” – we decided to see how those statistics fit the profile of our clients.
We found no correlation.
We believe this is because the parents of the children we see are much more attuned to preventive lifestyles. This doesn’t seem due to greater wealth or higher educational status. Rather, the parents are more goal-oriented.
One dentist quoted by the Bee suggested that the current “dental dilemma” may stem from some families not prioritizing the dental care of their younger children. “Sometimes,” he said, “it is just a lack of education about the need to get your child to a dentist early.”
Yet “education” is happening. County Health regularly sends dental educators into the schools. Their disease prevention program consists of teaching the kids to brush and floss. Some are provided fluoride tablets. The program pays for others to have sealants placed in their teeth. Meanwhile, the educators lament that there are not enough dentists who treat children.
I question their philosophy, which I variously call “industrial dental medicine,” “corporate dental medicine” or “Western school medicine.” This outlook views the decay process as an abnormality in a functioning machine. Primary symptoms are suppressed with specific “silver bullets.” The patient plays victim. The dentist is a glorified mouth mechanic, tooth engineer or oral plumber. Disease processes are reduced to computer code.
Our 21st century outlook, integrative, biological dentistry, focuses first on the parents and their children. We work together to develop health strategies for their lives. They become clients and students, not patients. The dentist by definition is a doctor, which also means “teacher.” Since our dentistry focuses on the underlying mechanisms of the disease process, my staff and I teach and coach our clients by enhancing awareness of the whole body implications of dental disease. Beyond teaching basic cleaning techniques, we encourage proper nutrition to chemically and electrically enhance the body and reduce the risks of decay.
Decayed teeth are one’s unique genetic and environmental response to a host of different factors.
The use of soft drinks, for instance, has skyrocketed over the past few decades, especially among children and teens. The beverage industry reported $16.1 billion in sales in 2004, their last reporting period. Fruit juice consumption is also up – another drink type high in simple sugars and low in total nutritional value.
This rise in consumption correlates with the increasingly imbalanced diets of our youth. Many kids do not take breakfast and instead munch on snack foods throughout the day. Most of these snacks are low in nutrients and high in refined carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates – refined sugars especially – play a pivotal role in tooth decay. They are a favorite food, so to speak, of the bacteria that make up the dental biofilm. The byproducts of their digestion of sugars are highly acidic, and this makes the teeth more susceptible to decay.
Consider: the optimal pH of saliva is 6.7, and the threshold for caries (cavity) development is 5.5. After the ingestion of soda, sports or energy drinks, the pH can plummet to 3.5 or lower. It will stay below that 5.5 threshold for the next half hour or so. Meanwhile, the acids cause demineralization of tooth structure and promote dental caries. The more frequent the consumption, the faster and more chronically these things will occur.
The best dentistry is no dentistry at all. But when decay sets in, we are now able to repair its ravages better, thanks to today’s sophisticated technology. But if teeth are implanted from the get-go with toxic materials like the so-called “silver fillings” (actually 53% mercury plus fractions of silver, copper, tin and zinc), those toxins should be removed to enhance the immune system.
The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes, low birth weight and heart disease spurred on by elevated levels of C reactive protein is strongly associated with the elevated production of inflammatory mediators and markers. So, too, periodontal (gum) diseases. These inflammatory conditions were once thought to be localized. That is, they were thought to be isolated in the oral cavity, and thus of concern only to dentists. We now know that this is false. The scientific evidence continues to suggest that periodontal disease may play a role in numerous conditions that impact systemic well being.
The structures of the mouth – teeth, tongue, gums – are useful barometers of the immune system. Consequently, the dentist becomes the primary care physician, helping the person minimize or prevent other painful physical diseases of decadence.