Steven Lin is a passionate health educator applying functional dentistry to help people achieve whole body health, a TEDx speaker, and author of The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link between Your Teeth, Real Food, and Life-Changing Natural Health.
What I discuss with Steven in this episode:
How an obscure tome first published in 1939 sparked Steven's interest in understanding ways to prevent oral afflictions with proper nutrition as a preference to the mainstream tendency to wait for problems to arise before fixing them.
Why are crooked teeth such a common sight today when they were relatively rare prior to the Industrial Revolution?
The value of fat soluble nutrients—like vitamin K2—seemingly absent from the modern supermarket.
How vitamin D deficiency can be passed from mothers to their children and the potential health problems that accompany this inheritance.
Teeth are living organs that can change throughout our adult years—for better or worse—depending on what we eat.
And much more!
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If you're like most people, you probably think about your teeth as being the most steadfast part of your mouth's topography, fixed in place and composition from an early age—built to last, but destined to suffer inevitable degradation over time. Only the luckiest among us who make it to the village elder stage of life do so with a full set of chompers, due in no small part to daily diligence toward brushing and flossing.
But what if we regarded our teeth not as lifeless utensils, but the living organs they are? Then we could nurture them accordingly with the proper diet and care we afford to the rest of the body and enjoy their use well beyond the popularly misguided perception of a "natural" expiration date. The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link between Your Teeth, Real Food, and Life-Changing Natural Health author Steven Lin, DDS is an aptly described "interior designer for mouths" who shows us how we can treat our teeth with the respect they deserve by understanding the role they play in our overall health and providing them with everything they need to prosper.
A Modern Fixation on Fixing
Years of dental school taught Steven how to fix teeth. But it wasn't until, on a backpacking trip across Europe, he stumbled across a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price that he started to understand how a lot of the mouth ailments he was seeing as a practicing dentist were happening in the first place—not as inevitable degradation, but as a direct result of the modern diet's influence on dental health.
"Modern" is relative, considering this book was published for the first time in 1939. But it introduced ideas that Steven had never heard of in seven years of dental school, which made him initially skeptical.
"I picked it up, I looked at it, and I was like, 'Ah, this is a load of baloney! It's all outdated!' There were 15,000 photos in there, but they're black and white, so you kind of think in terms of our modern context we've moved past that. So I put the book in my backpack and I discounted it. I went away and then went back to practice and it kept bothering me. I kept thinking about it and eventually I picked it up again; I realized that I didn't understand it.
"What he was talking about—the development of jaws and crooked teeth and why kids need braces today, and tooth decay—it is all a problem with food nutrient deficiencies. They're a screaming message from our body that we're not eating the right things. So that led me down the path of thinking anthropologically about the mouth and the context of dental disease and digging into the science of how we understand the mouth and the oral cavity as a model for whole-body health."
Forbidden Knowledge Vindicated
Steven's book is the result of his own 21st century observations and explorations sparked by ideas presented in what may as well have been a tome of forbidden knowledge from the better side of a century ago, randomly accessed on a personal voyage of self-discovery. Why this information took such a roundabout way to reach a greater audience instead of being taught in dental school for the past few generations is anybody's guess. But research conducted today is constantly confirming what Weston Price tried to tell us nearly 80 years ago.
Even the importance of vitamins K and K2—especially to oral health—is only now being understood, though Weston Price and a few of his contemporaries had already speculated on their efficacy in providing protection from tooth decay and chronic disease by the early 20th century.
And just as it took scientists until the mid-'90s to realize that our brains are constantly changing and regenerating rather than being fixed by a certain age, Steven is trying to get the word out that our teeth are similarly in a constant state of flux dependent on how we choose to take care of ourselves.
Every Bite You Take
"Our bodies are listening to every bite that we take, nutritionally," says Steven. "The teeth, I think, are one of the first signs of how we're eating the wrong or the right foods. Teeth are living organs; we've known this. We know that teeth have a blood supply, they have a nerve supply. We're taught this in dental school, but we're not taught how to feed them so they actually can function properly.
"We have living cells inside our teeth called odontoblasts that are waiting for a set of nutrients called the fat soluble vitamins—of which vitamin K2 is one; they're activated especially by vitamin A and vitamin D—so without those nutrients, you don't activate these defender cells. What they do is they release an immune reaction inside your teeth to potential harmful bacteria."
Listen to this full episode to learn more about what Weston's studies found to be the greatest differentiator between modern and traditional diets, why braces are ubiquitous among developing children today (while crooked teeth were a rarity until recent history), how vitamin D deficiency is passed from mother to child and what traditional diets did to prevent this, the foods we should be eating for optimal dental health, the foods we should be avoiding, the cholesterol connection to dental health, what the Fibonacci Sequence tells us about the human smile, mouth breathing versus nose breathing, why some of us grind our teeth when we sleep, why regular use of mouthwash could be hazardous to your health, and much more.
Resources from this episode:
The Power of a Smile with Steven Lin at TEDx Macquarie University
There's an original version of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price posted online courtesy of Project Gutenberg Australia for free here, or a more modern paperback 8th edition can be found on Amazon here.
Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Kate Rheaume-Bleue
A Decade Of Discovery Yields a Shock About the Brain by Sandra Blakeslee, The New York Times
Odontoblasts: Specialized Hard-Tissue-Forming Cells in the Dentin-Pulp Complex by Nobuyuki Kawashima and Takashi Okiji, Congenital Anomalies
Vitamins Are Important For Your Teeth with Dr. Steven Lin, Hay House Australia
Fat soluble vitamins mentioned by Steven
Are You Ready to Eat Your Natto? by Richard Schiffman, The New York Times
Occlusal Variation in a Rural Kentucky Community by Robert S. Corruccinni and L.Darrell Whitley, American Journal of Orthodontics
Your Sweet Tooth, the Oral Microbiome, and Tooth Decay by Steven Lin, I Quit Sugar
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan M.D.
Taking a Statin Drug? Here Are 3 Nutrients That May Be Depleted by Colin O'Brien, ND
The Fibonacci Sequence: Nature's Code with Hank Green, SciShow
Sleep Strips by SomniFix (to promote nose breathing)
Is Mouth Breathing Bad for Your Health? by Steven Lin
Twice-Daily Mouthwash Use Could Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes by Jack Woodfield, Diabetes.co.uk
How Your Gut Microbiome Links to a Healthy Mouth by Steven Lin
Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal M.D.
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