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Strengthen bones and teeth with white sugar?  What am I crazy?  If you don’t know much about me, you would say yes.  Stick around long enough and you might find I’m surprisingly sane.

I have no interest in perpetuating dogma or saying the same thing everyone else says and thinking like everyone else thinks.  The bottom line is that I and several others I communicate with have noticed a tremendous loss of tooth sensitivity as our teeth have become stronger.  That much is indisputable fact.  No one could convince me that my teeth haven’t become significantly less sensitive over the past year, because they have, and it’s obvious.

What I want to know is why.  This post is about exploring the potential mechanisms behind the increase in tooth strength I and others have experienced eating freely of sugar – in “natural” form, from whole foods like fruits, and even from totally refined white sugar (and evil high-fructose corn syrup, but I didn’t want to scare the health fanatical too much by using that in the title!).

How is such a thing possible?  It makes no sense that a food with no nutrient value whatsoever, not a trace of minerals, could increase the density of bones and teeth.  How could adding it to one’s diet possibly help?

A brief history of my mouth…

At age 12 it was Katie.  I kissed her on the cheek and then she told me things were “getting too serious” and totally dumped me.  Dyke.  Then Kelly.  Courtney.  Then that one chick that ran away from home and lived in my closet without my parents knowing for 3 days…

Wait, wait.  Not that kind of mouth history.  And no, not an “oral history” in the tribally indigenousey kind of way.  I describe my mouth as one with “more metal than a Slayer concert.”  I had severe tooth decay as a kid, had all my molars filled, had all my baby teeth fall out, and had all my adult molars filled with amalgams by age 12.  My teeth seemed better after puberty for a while, but got super sensitive when I started restricting my diet.

The worst was actually as a low-carber on a ZERO sugar, and I mean zero – from all sources (including fruit, juice, etc. – as well as white flour) diet.

Huh?  My early research pointed me towards white sugar as being the primary culprit in tooth decay.  That’s what everybody thinks, both mainstream and alternative, both past and present.  I mean, I like taking the opposing viewpoint and all, but I never could do it with sugar.  That just seemed impossible.

It’s not impossible.

It’s not impossible when you get beyond the very limiting nutritionist mindset and instead branch out into a physiology mindset, and even further.  What matters is not what you eat per se, but how your body works.  How your body works is the true bottom line.  What you eat is a big factor.  Definitely an All-Star on the Health Team.  But it doesn’t matter how good your players are if they still can’t put the pieces together well enough to win the game.  Putting more focus on basic bodily functions and taking attention away from the small details of nutrition has been a huge catalyst to greater success.

When it comes to bones and teeth, which share many physiological principles (bones and teeth tend to regenerate together, or degenerate together – the same factors that affect one affect the other), it’s not so much what you eat.  It’s more a matter of what your body does with what you eat.

I ate a very nutritious diet growing up.  I drank over a gallon of whole milk per week even at only 8 years old.  I never drank soda.  My mom cooked tons of homecooked meals with real, unrefined foods.  For a while my dad cut white flour and white sugar out of the house completely.  Even the breakfast cereals I ate were the most fortified ones.  I certainly had enough raw nutrition to have great teeth.  But I didn’t.  They were horrible.  My health sucked too.  I was sick all the time.

Now my diet is roughly the same, worse in many ways (I eat Cocoa Puffs instead of more whole foodsy Total or Raisin Bran or Just Right.  I drink at least a little Coke almost every day), and my teeth are getting stronger.  It’s all in the details.  My body functions differently now because of how I get the details right and the total net sum of all my metabolic functions is generally far better than it was during my adolescence.

In my youth I was constipated, had cold hands and feet a lot (had to hold little hand heaters while skiing), had low blood pressure and a very low resting pulse rate (40-45 beats per minute as a teenager), etc.  Now I don’t suffer from any of those shortcomings.  I have raised my metabolic rate tremendously.

And now for a grand revelation.  The process of actually increasing bone and tooth density is a very anabolic process.  It depends upon secreting a lot of the hormones of youth while having a lower secretion of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that break bone down, slow the rate of tissue renewal (a factor in the collagen synthesis that takes place in bones to keep them from breaking down), and reduce thyroid output.

If you are in a calm, warm, toasty, high metabolic state, with a body temperature around 99 degrees F, with great circulation to the hands and feet – a simple outwardly indicator of what’s going on inside, you can be pretty certain that your stress system is quieted down.  When it is, your body goes into a state conducive to laying down fresh muscle mass, bone mass, tooth mineral, connective tissue, and so on.  Even on a diet with less than optimal nutrient loads, the body still can maintain a positive mineral balance (and a positive collagen balance which seems to have even more to do with bone health and the prevention of bone deterioration with aging than minerals) – meaning more minerals going in than coming out.  After all, human breast milk is no more nutritious than a bowl of ice cream sweetened with buttloads of white sugar, and babies are growing bones and teeth like weeds at a young age.

What helps keep the body in that state more of the time?  Frequent feedings, and feedings that emphasize sugar at that.  When you eat, the glucocorticoids, or stress hormones, shut down.  But after a couple of hours the glucocorticoids rise once again to raise blood sugar.  Even a miniscule amount of carbohydrate is enough to keep the glucocorticoids suppressed.  That way your body doesn’t have to borrow sugar from the adrenal glands and enter into a temporary catabolic state.  This is obviously why bodybuilders swear by the power of frequent feedings, trying to spend more time in the growth state with more “anabolic drive” to steal a phrase from Stephen Cherniske.

Anyway, all I have needed to get some great tooth strengthening is to eat a surplus of calories (and probably get double the nutrients of someone on a whole foods diet by sheer quantity of food ingested, despite the large amount of refined carbohydrates in my diet), eat frequently – particularly of the primary anti-stress S’s… sugar, starch, and salt, take in the ideal amount of fluids (not too much!), and in-turn keep my hands and feet warm and body temperature high as much of the time as possible.

Even if you are freaking out about how many nutrients you may be missing out on – that infamous “nutrient debt,” you can easily make up for lost minerals in refined sugar by consuming cheese, milk, shellfish, some blackstrap molasses, and taking supplemental minerals like my favorite Min-Col.  Or just some good wholesome foods in general.

Sugar used to actually hurt my teeth when I ate it!  Eating a simple banana on a low-carb diet would make my teeth ache for two days!  Eating tons of sugar at first made my gums bleed for months!  But alas I have no problems there anymore, no matter what I eat.  Not because my diet is better or more nutrient-dense, but because my health is better and I digest and metabolize foods differently because of it.  I hope some of you can grasp that concept.

And of course hypothyroidism is known to cause tooth decay, and normalizing thyroid function reverses it.  That’s what’s really going on here, and sugar, from natural or even refined sources, plays a big role in increasing metabolic rate.

Dentists are far too caught up in a mechanistic view of how tooth decay works.  “Sugar ya see feeds bacteria, which leads to fermentation and the production of acids as a by-product, then this wears down tooth enamel – the first step in the development of tooth decay.”

Nutritionists are too mechanistic too.  “Sugar don’t got no minerals ya see, and teeth are made of minerals, so if you eat the ‘toxic anti-nutrient’ known as sugar yer teeth are just gonna waste away.”

Well, I eat sugar all damn day long from fruit, sweet potatoes, juice, Coca-Cola, dried fruit, kid cereals, ice cream, chocolate, English muffins slathered with Smuckers, I make totally badass Tiramisu by the way, and even eat sugary stuff right before bed, and only brush a couple times a week… and my teeth just keep getting stronger.  It’s not just me either.  I’m hearing this reported more and more when people get things really dialed in tight.

When your body is healthy, you don’t get cavities.  When it is compromised, you very well might.  Sure, dental hygiene and all that plays a role, and nutrient intake plays a role, but they are small roles in that battle.  I would say dental hygiene contributes to, at most, 20% of my own dental health.  Nutrient density doesn’t contribute much at all, as eating a very nutritious whole foods diet prohibits me from consuming enough calories to get into a high-metabolic, anti-stress, tooth-strengthening state.

Anyway, throw that kink into your health food fetish.  There is a lot I left out for the sake of brevity, such as the role carbohydrates play in carbon dioxide levels, and the role of carbon dioxide in bone synthesis, but happy to discuss more in the comments.

Some links…

Thyroid and Dental Caries

Osteoporosis, Aging, Tissue Renewal

Can Thyroid Disease Make You Prone to Cavities?

Thyroid Tie with Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay and Thyroid Problems

Sucrose and Metabolic Rate