Your Health is in Your Mouth

I have been a dental hygienist for over 20 years. The dental community has known for decades that there is a link between poor oral health and the presence of many common chronic diseases such as  heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Improving the dental and overall health of my patients has been my passion throughout my career.

Being a hygienist, one of my roles is to educate patients about the proper techniques for plaque removal. I would dare to say, I am an expert in oral hygiene instruction. Despite this, I feared my dental check-ups. I would have a cavity every time even though I brushed diligently 2-3 times a day and flossed nightly. It was very frustrating to say the least! 

After an autoimmune diagnosis five years ago, I turned to nutrition to help improve my health. I made some drastic changes to decrease inflammation in my body. I have seen first-hand through my own health journey, the power of real food!  I have found that nutrient-dense, healing foods can influence and improve both dental and overall health. I haven’t had a cavity in 5 years! My oral health care routine didn’t change but my nutrition did! My focus wasn’t on my dental health, but the improvement was a wonderful consequence.

Weston Price, a pioneer in nutrition and dentistry made some very interesting observations as he traveled worldwide to study tribes who had been eating their indigenous diets who then began to adapt a western diet full of refined sugar, flour and oils. These tribes who once had beautifully straight teeth, wide arches, minimal tooth decay and strong immunity began to have crowding, narrow arches, rampant decay and weak immunity. During his travels, Dr. Price was able to repeatedly observe the connection between diet, dental, and overall health. He noted foods that promoted health and foods that promoted disease. 

I will be discussing some of these foods that will improve both your mouth and body. Foods that benefit dental and overall health must include nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, collagen, and fats. Supporting the oral and intestinal microbiome are also important to achieving optimal dental health and whole-body wellness. Consuming foods that send good epigenetic messages influence and shape our health as well. 

These beneficial nutrients can be found in a nutrient dense whole foods diet that includes quality meats that are grass-fed, pasture raised and wild caught. It also includes pasture raised eggs, organic fruits and vegetables and good fats. Using traditional preparation techniques like fermentation of vegetables and dairy along with soaking and sprouting of nuts, seeds and grains are important as well. In his book, The Dental Diet, Dr. Stephen Lin discusses specific nutrients that benefit our dental health such as fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, collagen and fats. These nutrients include the following:

Fat-soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin D- needed to absorb calcium which our body uses to grow and strengthen our teeth and bones.
    • Best sources of Vitamin D are animal products, like fatty fish, liver, cheese, and egg yolks. The form of vitamin D in plants(D2) is harder for our bodies to process.
  • Vitamin A-important for your body to grow and repair itself.
    • Best source of Vitamin A-  Grass fed beef and lamb liver, cod liver oil, colorful vegetables and salads cooked or dressed in fat.
  • Vitamin K2- is crucial for your bone and teeth health. It’s also important in making sure calcium stays out of your blood vessels. Grass-fed animals produce healthier meat, higher in Vitamin K2.
    • Best Sources are pasture- raised eggs, grass-fed butter. Organ meats, shellfish, and emu oil.
    • Fermented foods such as natto, sauerkraut, and cheeses like Gouda and brie.

*If you take warfarin, consult with a physician about your vitamin K intake.

Support Nutrients

  • Magnesium- activates enzymes and interacts with vitamin A , D and calcium. Magnesium supports the pumps that keep calcium out of our soft tissues and make it available for our bones and teeth. To control the flow of calcium and fully utilize it, your body needs fat soluble vitamins.
    • Foods rich in magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, avocado, black beans, yogurt, dark chocolate, and bananas.
  • Calcium – Your body needs calcium to build and maintain your teeth and bones. It’s best to consume calcium in its biologically absorbable forms. To control the flow of calcium and fully utilize it, your body needs fat soluble vitamins.
    • Best sources of calcium include grass fed dairy, green vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens), almonds, whole fish, and soups with meat cooked on the bone.
  • Zinc- helps maintain the structural integrity of the proteins in our bodies and like magnesium it helps regulate gene expression. Zinc also plays a key role in how our bodies process vitamin A.
    • Sources of zinc include oysters, grass-fed beef, turkey, cheese, swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, and almonds
  • Collagen- one of the most crucial structural building blocks of our skin, joints, gums and all of our connective tissues.
    • Dietary collagen is found in its natural state mainly in animal connective tissue. Broths and soups with meat cooked on the bone are important to our health.
    • For added benefit, supplement with grass-fed collagen by adding to smoothies, soups, and your morning coffee
  • Fat – To get fat soluble vitamins and many other crucial nutrients where they need to go and for our cells to absorb them, we need to eat certain fats. Your body needs the full range of dietary fats to fully absorb the fat- soluble vitamins and other fat -soluble nutrients. Fat sources include:
  •  Saturated- meats, tallow, lard, butter, cheese
  • Monounsaturated- olive oil, almonds, avocados
  • Polyunsaturated- fish, walnuts, flaxseed
  • Cholesterol- liver, fish, eggs, butter
  • Check out this article for more nourishing foods for the mouth

A Diverse and Balanced Microbiome 

Your overall health depends on the health of the bacterial microbiome(ecosystem) in your mouth and gut. It needs a balance of the “good” slow metabolizing bacteria and the “bad” fast metabolizing bacteria. These thriving organisms depend on the food you put into your mouth. Bad bacteria thrive on refined sugar, flours and oils; shifting the balance of oral and intestinal flora and feeding those bad bacteria that are present in dental diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis and caries(cavities). It is helpful to consume a balance of foods that contains probiotics and prebiotics that will feed the good bacteria of our oral and intestinal microbiome.

  • Best sources of probiotics are fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, kombucha, kefir and yogurt.
  • Prebiotics feed the bacteria in our gut. They are mainly found in fiber such as carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, artichoke, cassava, apples, bananas, asparagus, jicama, chicory root, and dandelion greens.
  • Supplementing with a quality spore-based probiotic that will successfully survive the digestive process will aid in balancing the microbiome.

Eat Food with Healthy Epigenetic Messages

  • The food you eat contains not just nutrients that you absorb, but the collective epigenetic messages that eventually shape your gut bacteria, immune system, metabolism, and hormones as well. It’s important to remember that every meal is an opportunity to make sure your microbiome and your genes are getting the right epigenetic messages from your food.
  • You can directly control the epigenetic messages that your food sends to your genes by buying fresh, organically grown produce, choosing pasture raised animals, wild caught seafood, and raw grass-fed butter and cheese. 
  • It is important to avoid the unhealthy messages that refined sugars, flours, oils and GMO grains send to our cells.

The mouth reflects our overall health. Oral inflammation, dysfunction and disease is a sign of imbalance in our bodies. How we choose to fuel our bodies will have lasting effects on our dental health but also on every cell in our bodies. It’s important to include nutrients that nourish, send healthy messages, and support our oral and intestinal microbiome. In my next post, I will go in more detail how the  foods we eat influence the development of our facial structure, dental arch and airway quality.


Price, W.A. (2018) 8thed. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottenger. Lemon Grove, CA.

Lin, S. (2018) The Dental Diet. Hay House. Carlsbad, CA.

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