The Dietary Lessons of Teeth

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We can draw many important lessons on human diet from history. In particular, examination of human teeth provides some of the most important insights we have into what humans should eat, what we should not eat, or at least are poorly adapted to eating.

Prior to around 10,000 years ago, tooth decay was uncommon–despite the lack of fluoridated toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes, and dentists. When grains were added to the diet, there was an explosion of tooth decay: 16-49% of all teeth recovered showed decay or abscess formation.

Modern efforts at dental hygiene help subdue the extravagant tooth decay that now occurs because of grain (and sugar) consumption. But in this historical observation an important dietary lesson can be learned: Humans were never meant to consume the seeds of grasses, i.e., “grains.”


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You know, there are many dietary lessons we can take from human history. In fact the most important dietary lessons come from the experiences that our forefathers had over the many centuries of life on this planet, where there’s many important lessons to be found in teeth, of all things.

Before we consumed grains, 1 to 3% of all teeth showed evidence for decay, abscess formation, gingivitis or misalignment — which makes sense, right? When humans live wild, you needed a full set of teeth to consume meats and organs and plants, because if you didn’t, if you lost, say, a third or half of your teeth from decay, or they were misaligned and were inefficient, you would pay a health price. So it really paid to have a full mouth of teeth.

Of all teeth recovered in skulls intact, 1-3% showed decay, abscess formation or other diseases. Now think of it. This was in an age when there was no dental floss, no fluoridated toothpaste, no dentists, no fluoridated drinking water, no orthodontists; yet there was very little tooth decay.

When humans first turned the seeds of grasses, or grains, around 10,000 years ago, whether it was einkorn wheat in the Fertile Crescent, or millet in sub-Saharan Africa, or maize and teosinte in Central America, humans developed extravagant, explosive tooth decay. Depending on what region of the world, at what time period, 16-49% of teeth showed decay, cavities, abscess formation, as well as misalignment. In other words, tooth decay exploded.

It’s come back down in modern times, but that’s because we’ve had to compensate for grain consumption, with such things as dental floss and toothpaste, fluoridated toothpaste, and dental care, etc. I point this out because in that experience is an extraordinary finding, that is; prior to consumption grains, humans lived their entire lives with full mouths of teeth.

Now some people have said “well people died young in that age”. Well, people did not always die young. People often lived into their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, and despite that, just despite that longevity, survived to that age with full mouth of teeth. Yes, average lifespan was shorter, because there was a lot of mortality in newborns and the first several years of life. Average life spans were skewed because of that, but people did indeed live until old age. It was very common, and they lived that way and had full mouths of teeth.

Now I’m not suggesting that in the modern age you give up all your dental hygiene efforts. But I point this out because one of the things we see in our grain-free experience is an extraordinary improvement in dental health, even if you’ve made no changes in your dental hygiene. People report less plaque. They report fewer cavities. What I don’t know is; if we eliminate grains early enough in life, can we also avoid tooth misalignment? I suspect we can, but no one’s ever looked at that.

By the way, the same experience has been observed in primitive modern cultures who still adhere to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle — who are then exposed to Western foods (grains, sugars, soft drinks). It’s the same phenomenon occurs, explosively, an explosion in tooth decay tooth, loss tooth, tooth abscess, misalignment.

In fact, among the top causes of suicide in these primitive cultures is tooth abscess. So buried in that experience, the experience of modern hunter-gatherers exposed to Western food, as well as the historical record on oral health, it’s clear that grains never belonged in the human diet in the first place. When we did so, one of the prices we paid was dramatic reduction in dental health.

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