When most people think about good nutrition, they assume that the only important thing is what’s in their food. Well, chew on this: Teeth—that’s right, teeth!—play a critical role, too.
The connection may not be obvious at first glance, but if you have missing teeth or dental disease, you simply won’t get the maximum nutritional value from food.
Maybe you already know that unhealthy teeth and gums can contribute to serious diseases, such as heart ailments, osteoporosis, and even diabetes, and severely stress the immune system. The end result is that your quality of life and longevity may suffer. But I’m betting you don’t know how teeth also fit into the nutrition part of this equation.
For the body to do its best job of assimilating food, two things are necessary. One is a healthy digestive tract; the other is the ability and willingness to chew. Here’s where human anatomy comes into play because, despite whatever notion we may have about being king of the jungle, our digestive system doesn’t measure up to that of other creatures.
Carnivores, herbivores and omnivores each have a distinct kind of digestive system with teeth designed to match the needs of that system. Take cats, for example. These meat eaters don’t have to chew—sharp front teeth enable them to just rip, tear and swallow—because their digestive tract can handle tough animal tissue.
Similarly, the digestive system of herbivores, such as cows, sheep and deer, has evolved to the point where it can digest and assimilate the tough cellulose fibers surrounding all cells in plants. Though their system does that job very efficiently, herbivores still must chew plant food so their bodies can completely absorb it. That’s why herbivores don’t have the tearing, canine teeth of carnivores; instead theirs are broad, flat molars that effectively break down the fibrous cellulose.
And what about us omnivores? Our digestive system is set up to process both meat and plants. But it’s no match for the digestive abilities of carnivores and herbivores, and to make up for that shortcoming, we must use our teeth more efficiently. Because we can’t digest cellulose, we have to chew vegetables and plants very thoroughly to extract all of their nutritional content. The same goes for protein foods, animal or otherwise.
Your conscious brain plays a key role here, too. What you decide to do with the food in your mouth—chew it well or gulp it down—is the last time you’ll have conscious control over how much nutritional value can be extracted from it – no matter whether it is a salad or a steak.
After you swallow food, chemical digestion, which you can’t consciously control, takes over in the stomach and intestine. So chewing is your one chance to determine how efficiently food will ultimately be digested and assimilated.
This is where teeth come in. Our most efficient tools for grinding and breaking down both plant and animal products are molars. Humans have eight of these powerful dental food processors—two on the top and two on the bottom on each side of the mouth.
Let’s say you lose a tooth and don’t have it replaced. Or you have gum disease or an abscess and simply can’t chew on that tooth or on that side. Functionally, you end up losing two teeth, not just one.
Think about it. Take away a top tooth and the tooth below it has nothing to chew against; that makes the bottom tooth useless. It also means you lose 25 percent of the molar’s chewing efficiency. Take away two teeth on the top and you lose 50 percent of efficiency.
You’ve heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” At first glance that sounds pretty good, but in reality it isn’t accurate.
In fact, you are what you assimilate. It doesn’t matter what you put in your mouth because, first, if you don’t have your teeth, or their artificial replacements, to properly chew food, your body won’t be able to effectively digest it. Second, regardless of how healthy the food is, it can’t be assimilated if it isn’t digested. And third, if it isn’t assimilated, food has little or no nutritional value.
What You Can do About It
If you have lost any teeth and haven’t had them replaced you are putting your overall health at risk. If you are serious about improving your oral and overall health you will need to have the lost teeth replaced. There are many options available to you and the first step in this process is to make a dental appointment. My recommendation is to schedule one with a mercury free/holistic/biological dentist. He/she will be more aware of the important relationship of oral to overall health and will be better suited to support your efforts at achieving optimal oral and overall health. Those who are committed to mercury free/safe dentistry will be able to provide you with a safe mercury amalgam (silver) filling removal protocol to protect you against unnecessary exposure to toxic mercury vapor.
The bottom line: You cannot be healthy without healthy teeth and gums.
[Dr. Tom resides in Sebastopol, CA and is the author of the best-selling books, Healthy Teeth—Healthy Body: How to Improve Your Oral and Overall Health, The Poison in Your Teeth: Mercury Amalgam Fillings . . . Hazardous to Your Health, and Mercury Detoxification: The Natural Way to Remove Mercury from Your Body. He is a leading authority on mercury amalgam silver fillings, chronic mercury poisoning, mercury detoxification, and holistic dental wellness. Dr. Tom specializes in patient education and is available for phone consultations about topics within his area of expertise. He has the largest and most visited website of its kind, with over 350 pages of information. His website, www.dentalwellness4u.com has the largest database of mercury-free and mercury-safe dentists available on the Internet. You can contact his office at 1-800-335-7755.]