Bite Sized: Optimizing the Health of Your Baby’s Teeth
By Dr. Pieter Dahler
The quality of your baby’s teeth depends partly on influences of generations past, partly on nutrition before and during pregnancy, and partly on nutrition in the child’s infancy. Predisposed factors aside, here’s what you can do to confidently optimize the development of your child’s choppers.
The Upside of Epigenetics
The basic quality of our teeth’s health is established long before we are conceived. As the late Dr. Carlton Fredericks stated in his Genotrophic Theory, we each carry genetic influences of many generations past. Today we call this phenomenon epigenetics.
While epigenetics says our health is affected by environmental influences of previous generations, it also states that we have the ability to alter the way our DNA is expressed through lifestyle choices such as nutrition. Thus, to a certain degree, each of us can change the architectural plan of our being—or that of our child.
When it comes to dental health, parents planning a baby actually have a good deal of control over the quality of their child’s teeth. Understanding how teeth grow reveals a basic plan for optimizing that growth.
The Life and Times of Teeth
The first developmental tooth cells appear in a fetus in the sixth or seventh week after conception, while the first hardened structure of a lower front baby tooth can be seen after about 14 weeks in the womb. All baby teeth will be completely formed, roots and all, with the back teeth fully grown in the mouth, by about 13 years after birth.
While adult teeth start replacing baby teeth around age six, these mature teeth actually begin to originate just three to four months after birth, sometimes sooner, and continue to build until the child is 19 to 25 years of age. Thus, it’s critical that a mother’s nutritional status be optimal from the time before conception all the way through weaning, and that parents teach their child good eating habits to ensure optimal nutrition throughout their teen and early-adult years.
Teeth and their supporting jaw bones develop from collagen, the main component of human connective tissue and the most abundant protein in the body. The “glue” of the collagen structure includes the components of the vitamin C complex, which bind together the tissue’s building blocks, amino acids.
When well-informed health professionals mention vitamin C, by the way, they do not mean just ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid relative to true vitamin C is like an eggshell without the yolk and white. It is just one part of the vitamin C complex and has no real nutritional or therapeutic value by itself.
Other major nutrients required for healthy teeth are calcium and phosphorus, which form the basic crystalline structure of enamel, as well as vitamin A and the hormone cholecalciferol, or “vitamin D3.” In addition, hundreds of secondary supporting micronutrients are required as well.
The Case for Supplementation
Parents planning a baby should ideally be on a sound nutrition plan for a minimum of three months prior to conception. Such a program ensures—since most women don’t know they’re pregnant until sometime after conception—that the foundation for strong teeth is firmly in place at the time a woman conceives.
While ideally the nutrients required for healthy teeth are obtained from food, many factors of modern food production make this a challenge. Poor soils, long transportation times, poor warehouse storage practices, extensive processing, and overcooking all compromise the nutrient value of food.
Therefore, if there is any doubt as to a sufficient supply of nutrients through diet, a quality supplementation program using food-based supplements is a must. In my practice, I use Standard Process supplements because the company’s unique “cold processing” method keeps its food concentrates raw and fresh. In my opinion, SP products are not just pills in a bottle, they’re living works of art from Mother Nature.
Say Cheese: Recipe for a Great Smile
Calcium, as everybody knows, is essential for strong teeth and bones. What few people realize, however, is that the form in which it is delivered to the body is absolutely critical.
Ideally, we obtain calcium from green foods or from spring water as calcium bicarbonate. Since calcium bicarbonate is not producible in pill form, however, Standard Process makes the next best thing, Calcium Lactate. This highly assimilable calcium is just one conversion step away from the ideal bicarbonate form. Compare this with the calcium carbonate in most synthetic supplements, which requires about a dozen conversion steps to become usable by the body.
Cataplex D, a source of vitamin D3, is also essential, especially if the mother spends a lot of time indoors (sunlight being the ideal source of vitamin D). It helps calcium get from the gut into the blood. In turn, Cataplex F tablets, a source of essential fatty acids and iodine, help move the calcium from the blood and into the body’s trillions of cells.
To optimize the production of collagen, both Collagen C and Cataplex C are critical. Collagen C provides the chondroitin sulfate building component of the collagen tissue plus some vitamin C complex, while the addition of pure Cataplex C ensures the body is getting an ample amount of this critical nutrient.
For the scores of secondary micronutrients required for tooth growth, I recommend Catalyn, the organ-and-gland-building concentrate developed in 1929 by Standard Process founder Dr. Royal Lee. Comprising 12 nutrient-packed, organically grown foods, this comprehensive multivitamin still has no equal.
Finally, to supply amino acids and assure their digestion, I consider Protefood and Zypan to be essential during pregnancy. While Protefood provides the actual amino acids, Zypan helps ensure their digestion and assimilation, which otherwise is a real challenge for most people. If amino acids are not provided to the fetus daily for teeth building, they will be robbed from the mother, who will then suffer deficiency discomforts such as morning sickness, depression, faintness, or vomiting.
Often when a newborn cries in a constant, low-grade whine, in fact, it is the result of its cells becoming deficient in protein and calcium—a case of malnutrition that baffles most pediatricians. Parents, by ensuring that these nutrients are readily available during and after pregnancy, not only lay the groundwork for a great smile, they ensure that the needs of the rest of their child’s body are met as well.
back to top ^
Nutrition in the Kitchen
This simple recipe for bone broth comes from Healthy 4 Life, the new shopping-and-eating guide from the Weston A. Price Foundation. You can order a copy of this wonderfully concise book at seleneriverpress.com.
All over the world, when people eat meat, they also use the bones to make nourishing stock or broth. Then they use the broth to make delicious soups, sauces and stews. Bone broths provide calcium and phosphorus for your own bones [and teeth], in a form that is very easy for the body to use; they provide nutrients that help build healthy joints and cartilage; they help the body detoxify; and they help the body digest food.
About 4 pounds oxtails
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons dried herbs
1. Place oxtails in a large flame-proof baking pan and bake at 400 degrees until browned. Place in a crock pot with remaining ingredients. Place the baking pan over a burner and add some water to the pan. Bring to a boil and stir around, scraping up all the residue in the pan. Add this water to the crock pot along with enough water to cover the bones. Bring to a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Cover and simmer about 12 hours. (You may also prepare broth in a stock pot.)
2. Let the broth cool, remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon, and strain the broth into a bowl. Chill and remove any fat that comes to the top. Transfer to plastic containers and store in the refrigerator if you plan to use the broth within three days. For long-term storage, store in the freezer. You can use this broth in nourishing soups, stews and sauces, or drink like tea in a mug. Makes about 3 quarts.
back to top ^
Ask the Doc
In each issue, we put readers' questions to a holistic health practitioner and educator rooted in the principles of the great Dr. Royal Lee. If you have a nutrition-related question you'd like ask one of our docs to answer in a future newsletter, please email it to
Dear Dr. Dahler:
Q. What’s the best way to brush your teeth?
A. The notion that we are brushing our teeth to remove food is basically incorrect. We can remove most non-sticky foods by just rinsing vigorously. When you look at a new toothbrush, you see that the bristles are straight and fairly stiff. These bristles are meant to draw up liquid from the mouth through capillary action—similarly to how a tree draws water up to its leaves.
When a healthy toothbrush is properly applied to the junction where teeth meet gum, this capillary action sucks up the fluids from the “gingival crevice” around each tooth. This crevice is the area most vulnerable to gum infections and where bone loss, also known as periodontal disease, begins.
The true purpose of brushing teeth is to disturb the bacteria in the gingival crevice. With proper technique, much of the bacteria are drawn up and out of the mouth, while the remainder are displaced enough that it takes 24 to 48 hours for them to reorganize and resume making the acids that create plaque.
To brush teeth properly, place the toothbrush along the gum line at 45 degrees with respect to the row of the teeth. Then gently wiggle the bristles a few millimeters back and forth—not up and down. This allows the bacterial pool to be sucked up into the brush’s capillaries. Do this with a few teeth and then tap the brush on the sink to remove the bacteria collected. Repeat until all crevices have been brushed.
Pieter Dahler is a retired dentist and oral surgeon and, since 2002, general surgeon and neurosurgeon. He holds three PhDs in subjects related to the nutrition and customs of native Latin American cultures. His non-profit foundation, Foundation for the Development of Healthy Teeth in a Healthy Body, comprises 470 doctors who have served over 150,000 indigenous people over the span of 40 years. He can be reached at
back to top ^
From the Archives
In each issue of Milk and Honey, we reach into SRP’s Historical Archives—a free, searchable database of seminal works in the history of nutrition—to examine the investigations of nutrition’s great pioneers. While many of the discoveries of these researchers are unknown to conventional nutrition today, their truths continue to be validated through modern research and clinical observation.
What Really Causes Cavities?
By Patrick Earvolino
Even a peek at the early days of nutrition research makes one fact plain: In many cases, disease is not so much the result of attack by germs but rather the inability of the body to resist such attack. And the chief determining factor of this resistance is one’s nutritional status.
Just as this basic truth applies for the person who rarely gets the sniffles, so it goes for folks who avoid the drill at the dentist’s office. “Diseases of the teeth,” wrote Dr. John Gunther, “are related primarily to deficient food factors which predispose the dental tissues to invasion by microorganisms.” Gunther, both a physician and a dentist, wrote these words in a 1942 article titled “Nutritional Aspect of Dental Disease” in the journal Philadelphia Medicine.
By contrast, some will say—and by some we mean mainstream modern dentistry—that cavities are merely caused by excessive sugary and starchy foods on the teeth. Bacteria convert these famous culprits into acids, which then attack and degrade the teeth’s enamel and underlying tissues.
Yet if the mere presence of sticky carbohydrates dooms teeth, Gunther wonders, why, then, did a study show that children in New York regularly experience more cavities in late winter and spring than in summer and fall? It’s unlikely that the consumption of starchy and sugary foods follows such a seasonal pattern.
Something that does follow such a pattern in New York, on the other hand, is the availability of the type of sunlight necessary for the body to make vitamin D, a key player in the maintenance of human teeth. (New York, because of its northern latitude, does not receive the proper frequency of sunlight for vitamin D formation for several months during the winter and early spring.)
Gunther also cites studies linking vitamin A deficiency with insufficient enamel formation and even small deficiencies of vitamin C with impaired function of tooth-forming cells. He notes as well that decreased consumption of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, both basic components of teeth, is associated with increased rates of cavities. Malnutrition and tooth decay, he argues, simply go hand in hand.
The Lesson of Africa
One researcher who would have agreed wholeheartedly with Gunther is the famous Cleveland dentist Dr. Weston Price, who traveled the world in the 1930s specifically to find and study societies free of tooth decay. (Price was unable to find any such communities in the United States.)
What Price discovered was pretty simple. While cavities were ubiquitous and rampant in every society that had adopted industrially processed foods, those populations that had stuck with their traditional diets were virtually free of the disease. And, while the diet of these cavity-free cultures varied tremendously—from the mostly-meat-eating Eskimos of Alaska to the hardy rye-and-dairy villages of the Swiss Alps—one place proved particularly illuminating in our cavity debate: Africa.
Price studied nearly 30 tribes of the central African plains, many of them subsisting on a starchy agricultural diet comprising sweet potatoes, beans, cereal grains, and the like. Uninitiated to toothpaste or dental floss, the mouths of these people were completely “smeared with starch,” as he put it.
With the enzyme salivary amylase breaking down a portion of that starch into sugar, the bacteria in the Africans’ mouths had the ideal environment to do their stuff. These natives, according to the conventional theory of cavity formation, should have been riddled with tooth decay. Yet their cavity rates were astoundingly low—in the range of 1 to 2 per one hundred teeth.
Furthermore, in those tribal Africans who'd begun to replace the foods of their traditional diets with processed ones—and all the nutrient deficiency that comes with them—the cavity rate was 20 to 30 cavities per hundred, a figure more in line with industrialized nations. (You can learn more about Price’s investigation here.)
Fill Your Own Cavities?
Another “fact” touted by modern dentistry is that tooth decay is irreversible. Once a cavity starts, it will continue to grow until the tooth’s nerve endings are exposed and all hell breaks loose. The best one can do, therefore, is stop a cavity in its tracks, or “drill ‘it and fill ‘it,” as they say.
Yet in 1924, Dr. May Mellanby—wife of vitamin-D discover Edward Mellanby and respected scientist in her own right—conducted an experiment that turns this notion on its head, at least for cavities in the early stages of formation. By supplementing the diet of a group of children suffering early-stage tooth decay with a hefty dose of vitamin D3, Mellanby was able to not just stop cavities from forming but actually reverse them.
Interestingly, Mellanby did not have the children cut down on their sweets. They continued to eat “sugar, jam, and syrup” and hot chocolate as well as starchy bread and oatmeal (along with whole foods such as milk, butter, eggs, meat, and vegetables). Yet, over six months, the children on average formed only one new cavity while healing four.
A quasi-control group, which was given the same diet except without the supplemental vitamin D and with some extra oatmeal, went on to develop almost six cavities apiece while healing virtually none.
An Anti-Cavity Diet
Based on the works of Drs. Price and Mellanby, Dr. Stephan Guyenet, nutrition researcher and author of the acclaimed blog Whole Health Source, describes the ultimate cavity-healing (or preventing) diet as “rich in animal foods, particularly full-fat, pastured dairy products, [as well as] meat, organs, fish, bone broths, and eggs.”
Other good foods, he says, include raw vegetables and cooked starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes with lots of pastured butter, and fruit, though he recommends limiting that to one piece a day.
Grains, if eaten, he warns, must be prepared carefully because of their high content of phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of critical tooth-building minerals such as calcium. Grain foods that are unfermented, such as oatmeal, breakfast cereal, crackers, etc., should be strictly avoided.*
He also advises plenty of vitamin D, either through sunlight exposure, high-vitamin cod liver oil, or a vitamin D3 supplement. And, of course, no industrially processed foods.
Nourish, Brush, Smile
In his article, Dr. Gunther does not deny that cavities are formed as the result of bacterial action in the mouth. The question is, why does the “attack” of the bacterial waste products succeed?
Microbes are all around us, all the time—in our mouth, our gut, our eyes, our lungs, etc. What decides whether they make trouble for us? Is it chance? Or is it the difference largely a matter of our ability to withstand attacks by such organisms? It seemed clear to Dr. Gunther, as it did to most early nutrition researchers, that health has more to do with properly fortifying the body than wiping out would be antagonists.
This doesn’t mean, when it comes to our teeth, that we should eschew measures to reduce the number of acid-producing bacteria in our mouth. Brushing and flossing are certainly an excellent adjunct to tooth care, but all the cleaning in the world will not help our teeth if we’re using them to chew lame foods.
*The best method of preparing grains, Dr. Guyenet says, is to sour ferment them prior to cooking, a process that thoroughly breaks down their phytic acid. Soaking and sprouting, other common preparations, are only partially effective in degrading the mineral inhibitor, and for grains that have been previously heat treated, such as oats, soaking does not reduce phytic acid content at all, making regular oatmeal consumption a suspect behind much tooth decay.
Patrick Earvolino is a certified nutritionist and founder of New Basics Nutrition, a company dedicated to spreading the truth about what we eat. He is available for nutritional counseling, writing, or public speaking at 303-513-1996 or
back to top ^
Published by Selene River Press
Stephanie Anderson, Publisher
Patrick Earvolino, Editor-in-Chief
Josh Hillhouse, Art Director