Why Raw Foodists Have Bad Teeth: Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Monday Jul 1 | BY |
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In 2001, I got extremely bad news from my dentist. I had gone back from a long adventure in California, where I lived exclusively on a raw food diet and had been doing so for almost three years. California was my raw food pilgrimage, and where I learned all the tricks and tips from the leaders of this health movement, the ones who were writing books on the topic.

Initially, I felt great on this raw food diet, living off fruits and vegetables. I was scrawny but I had good energy and focus. When I introduced started eating lots of raw food recipes, nuts, seeds and other raw food “treats,” my health started to go downhill.

In California, my teeth were bothering me, but I never got them checked. When I returned to my hometown in Quebec, Canada, I got my teeth examined by a dentist, because I knew something was wrong. Then I got some sobering news: I had developed 19 cavities.

At the time, fixing all of those teeth cost more money than I had, and was also painful and traumatizing.

That’s when I realized I had done a lot of terrible things during my first few years on the raw food diet.

– I wasn’t paying too much attention to my dental hygiene, having read in books that just chewing on apples and celery is often enough to “clean your teeth”
– I had been consuming dates, dried fruits, nuts, and raw food treats, as well as lots of fruit in abundance
– I neglected to go to the dentist upon the first signs of pain in my teeth

So I decided: “No more,” I will change things around. No more raw food recipes full of nuts and dried fruits. I would keep on eating dates, but I would brush my teeth religiously after eating. I kept on eating a raw food diet, but I cleaned it up. I still ate a lot of fruit, but I paid real attention to my dental hygiene. I flossed and brushed after most meals. I had all of my teeth fixed. I thought “Things will be much better on my next dentist’s appointment.”

One day, less than two years later, I was eating a grape and while chewing around the seed, one of my filings broke.

So I went to the dentist again, this time, to a holistic dentist in Montreal who practiced mercury-free dentistry. I thought that maybe I would have a cavity or two, but not more than that.

When the dentist examined my mouth, I heard him mention all of these tooth names to his assistant, and it didn’t sound very good. I knew I was in trouble again. Finally, I got the news that again, I had around 20 cavities.

I was absolutely devastated. I thought I had done everything right. I had been brushing my teeth religiously. I had eliminated most of the junk raw food I was eating before.

But I had been traumatized by this experience. Again, I had to go through the pain and humiliation of getting my teeth fixed.

This day, something changed inside me. I decided “No more raw foods. I’m done with this diet.”

By then, it was the end of 2003. I quit the raw food diet. Instead of having fruit for lunch, I was having a stir-fry with tofu, or something like that. For breakfast, I had yogurt and some fruit. For dinner, I often ate fish and rarely chicken. I was too scared by my former beliefs to try red meat, but I finally did on a few occasions.

I ate sandwiches, ate bread, ate lots of cooked vegetables. I had salad, and I continued eating fruit, but much less than before. I had animal protein like eggs or fish on a regular basis. I ate beans and rice and other grains and legumes.

And while I was at it, I started brushing my teeth with a fluoride-containing toothpaste once a day. I thought “All of those hippie beliefs didn’t help me in the past. So this time, I’m going to do the opposite.” I also used toothsoap, a special kind of soap that was reputed to help the teeth remineralize themselves, twice a day the other times I was brushing my teeth.

Six to nine months later, I noticed some discolorations on my teeth. Some brown spots that looked suspicious.

So I went to the dentist, very scared to have cavities again. But this time, I got some great news. “Well those spots are from teeth re-enamelized. You had some cavities going that stopped dead in their tracks. You must have changed something to stop their progression. You don’t have any cavities. Your teeth are doing great.”

I was enthused.

But I needed to understand something. What was it that made the difference. Was it the toothsoap? Was it my change in diet? Was it the fluoride-containing toothpaste I was using once a day?

Also, I needed to understand why I had had so many cavities, not only once but twice, even after I had removed the apparent culprits that were causing the problems.

Finally, I came across a book that answered all of my questions. It was called “Money By the Mouthful” and had been written by a certain Dr. Nara. Little did I know at the time that I would later acquire the publishing rights to this book, which has helped me and so many other people turn their dental health around.

What I understood is that bacteria that cause dental decay organize into colonies. Once they get entrenched, it’s very hard to get them out into a normal, free flowing state where they can’t cause much damage. Standard dental hygiene advice is not enough to bring the bacteria count to a lower level.

By applying the information I learned in Dr. Nara’s book, I was able to successfully keep my teeth healthy. It involved, among other things, the use of an oral irrigator to really get in between the teeth and clean them thoroughly, as well as a careful way of brushing teeth that insured the job was done properly.

However, after this ordeal, I was also very reluctant to try a raw food diet again. Would my super-hygiene routine, I felt that perhaps my change in diet had also a lot to do with my “recovery.”

Over the next few years, I embarked on a few raw food experiments. I returned to the raw food diet, but carefully. At some point, I ate 100% raw. I also ate for a while according to the guideline’s of Dr. Graham’s 80-10-10 Diet. And every time I changed my diet, I noticed how it affected my dental health.

What I realized was the following:

– With my super-hygiene routine, I could control approximately 90% of my dental health, with the other 10% being influenced by diet.
– Whenever I ate a raw food diet for an extended period of time, I got cavities. Granted, it was not to the extent I had experienced in the past. For example, I might get one interdental cavity in one year, on a year that I followed a mostly raw diet.
– The more my diet was fruit based, the more it affected my dental hygiene negatively. I could eat a lot of fruit without experiencing problems, but as soon as most of my calories came from fruit, I experienced some problems such as enamel erosion, sensitivity, or cavities.

What I realized over the years is that the proper hygiene is key. It can prevent and in some cases, reverse problems in about 90% of cases. But while dental hygiene is very powerful when done correctly, it’s often not enough to reverse a bad situation completely.

Raw Foodists With Bad Teeth

I say with a lot of confidence that dental health is the Achilles’ heel of the raw food diet. And this is not only because I experienced problems. It’s because most people I have talked to, who have lived on a raw food diet, have experienced problems.

Dental decay is a problem of bacteria in the oral environment. It’s actually a disease. Accordingly, some people are blessed with more resistant enamel or a saliva that keeps their bacteria count under control naturally. So that’s why some people can eat a diet that can be very cariogenic (causing cavities) for many people without problems.

Having been involved in the raw food movement for many years, I have met many of the leaders and people who passionately promote this lifestyle. Many of them will refuse to admit that the diet they promote is causing dental problems in their followers.

Yet, behind the scenes, I know that things are not always what they appear. A great percentage of people I have talked to have experienced real dental problems, and in some cases have simply accepted that it’s the “price to pay” for great health in other aspects.

The only two reasons why raw-foodists get problems with their teeth are:

– Underlying issues (the bacteria count)
– Sugar

Once you understand this simple concept, you’ll be able to eradicate decay for life.

What happens is that when people move into the raw-food diet, they are basically a time-bomb as far as their dental health is concerned. Their bacteria count is a little too
high, but not high enough to cause major problems.

Suddenly, they dump a bunch of sugar into their mouths. This sugar creates a giant feast for the bacteria who feed on them.

So in that sense, the introduction of a higher quantity of natural sugar is the determining factor. This sugar can be in various forms… it doesn’t matter for the bacteria who feed on them! There is no difference between white sugar and banana sugar when it comes to increasing the bacteria count in the mouth!  

And this sugar is plentiful in the raw food diet. We’re talking about:

    Fresh fruits (bananas, mangoes, etc.)
    Fruit juices
    Dried fruits
    Nuts and seeds (which stick to the teeth)
    Raw food “bars” and dehydrated treats
    Smoothies (that’s right)
    Green smoothies (that’s right)
    Coconut water

Now… here’s where it gets interesting. Sugar is food for the bacteria.

Normally, you want your bacteria count to be as low as possible. You want to avoid bacteria forming in to *colonies* and creating their own little civilization in your mouth.

If your oral environment is really clean… it doesn’t really matter if you eat dates all day. If the bacteria count is low, you can do that without problems.

So although the *precipitating* factor that creates problem for raw-foodists is the introduction of more sugar, the *real* problem are the underlying issues, so the bacteria count! Like I said, 90% of the problems can be solved by dental hygiene alone, and 10% is diet-specific.

My Diet Today

Today, my teeth are quite resistant to decay. I still eat fruit, but not as much as I used to. My diet is more balanced with a variety of nutrients. In the morning, I have fruit in a smoothie form, and I do eat fruit throughout the day, but I don’t get most of my calories from fruit anymore. I get my calories from fruit, starch (in beans, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc.) some healthy fats (avocados, etc.) and protein (mostly plant, with some animal protein).

What I’ve noticed is that I can now eat pure sugar without getting problems anymore. I’ve corrected the underlying problems, and I’ve fixed my diet so it doesn’t promote decay. So now, I can even eat candy, or a drink containing white sugar, and it’s not going to affect my teeth negatively. Of course, I don’t do this constantly, but I do eat my fair share of fruit, and don’t hesitate to devour dates or other dried fruits, and occasionally, eat some white sugar-containing junk.

The only way to prevent dental decay for life and reverse a bad situation is to take active control of your oral environment. Just controlling your diet does not address the root of the problem.

Last Comments From Kevin Gianni

I hope that you enjoyed Frederic’s story on dental health.

I’ll be talking more about this topic during the week, including some interesting science that I’ve found, but I also have a great resource for you.

I came across it last year and purchased it. After I read it, I was thrilled to find out that many of the things I did (and struggled to research) — as well as some things that I’m going to add to my mouth care routine — were completely covered in one place.

The program is called “How To Heal & Prevent Dental Disasters In 21 Days Or Less” and I was turned on to it by our friend Frederic Patenaude. It includes the book “Money By the Mouthful” By Dr. Nara. This program has been created by OraMedia and is the only course I have discovered that tells you exactly how to avoid dental problems for the rest of your life.  

After I got the book and knew that I wanted to share it with you, I asked him if he could give you a discount on the program and he agreed. It’s normally $37 or so, but he’s going to offer all Renegade Health readers a $17.05 discount, so you can get it for just under $20 — at $19.95.

It’s a good deal, I promise. I picked up one tip from it that I’m starting in the next week or so that will likely save me thousands of dollars in dental bills in the future.

If you want to get this program all you have to do is head on over to this site and use this coupon code: RENEGADE

Here’s the site…


NOTE: Make sure that you use the coupon RENEGADE on check out to get the discount.

Please note this deal will expire in about 72 hours, so make sure you get it while the price is really good.

Your question of the day: Have you noticed more or less dental problems since you started eating increased amounts of fruit?

Live Awesome!

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

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