This interview is an excerpt from Kevin Gianni’s Renegade Roundtable. In this excerpt, Dr. Doug Graham shares some surprising information on diet, dental health and disease.
Dr. Doug Graham is a lifetime athlete and 27-year raw fooder. He’s been an advisor to top performers including tennis legend Martina Navratilova. He’s also the author of the lifestyle book 80/10/10.
Kevin Great. I wanted to talk to you about tooth care because a lot of people who get into the raw food diet have specific teeth issues that may arise. What are some of the challenges that people face? What are some of the things that you’ve done to kind of help reverse some of that?
Dr. Graham: Tooth care, it’s an interesting thing. Long ago people asked me to write about diseases. I said, “You know, I don’t really write about diseases because diseases are all pretty much the same. If you stop participating in the cause, the body won’t generate the symptoms.” Every individual disease, there’s thousands and thousands of human health conditions. I think it comes up the same with teeth. Oral hygiene and oral health is once again just one tiny aspect. It would be a shame if we were out there in the world telling people, “Look, we’ve got this diet. It’s the best diet in the world for everybody but it’s really terrible for your teeth.” Well that wouldn’t work. It turns out that the diet that we espouse is really wonderful for our teeth.
And obviously, but it still has to be said, because anybody that’s ever been to a dentist’s office has noticed that the dentist offices around the world are filled with people eating cooked food. So we can’t just look at raw food and say, “Raw food is really bad for your teeth because look what happens,” because we’re seeing the same thing happen on cooked food. At the same time we’re also seeing two other issues going on with our teeth that have to be at least allowed for. One is the fact, as disclosed in Pottinger’s Cat’s, that with every generation of cats eating a diet that was not species specific there was degeneration, both physical and physiological. In other words in the form and function and the design of the cat we saw decay.
We notice in human anatomy that changes have happened. One of the big ones that happens with malnutrition over generations is a loss of what is called the broadness, a narrowing of the dental arch. So for instance, if I smile at you, you might see 8 or 10 teeth whereas someone with a broader dental arch would smile at you and you would see 12 teeth or 14 teeth. The broader the front of that arch is, the wider the horseshoe, effectively, that the teeth make, the more room there is for teeth. So we’re seeing an increase with each generation. We’re seeing an increase in the number of children who need orthodontic work because there simply isn’t enough room for the number of teeth that are coming in, so they start crossing over each other instead of sitting alongside of each other.
We have inherited not only this problem but several others, with the health of our teeth, before we ever went raw. Then we have these issues with going raw. One of them is that a lot of people go raw and have a really hard time staying raw, so they’re switching back and forth between cooked and raw, which doesn’t do our teeth a lot of good, especially the kinds of foods that tend to get cooked, because as you become aware on some level, cooked food is really sticky. It sticks to our teeth like crazy. If we’re going to eat food that sticks to our teeth and a bunch of sweet foods as well, we’re going to have problems. In fact, anything that sticks to your teeth is a problem. All cooked food is sticky, all dehydrated food is sticky to some degree, stickier than its fresh counterpart. Nuts and seeds are sticky, they’ve been dehydrated.
The other problem that comes in is almost invariably some aspect of nature attack us when we go raw. We become ‘nature boys’ and ‘nature girls’ to a greater degree than we ever were before. A lot of people have come to me and said, “I went raw four years ago. I stopped using shampoo. I stopped using deodorant. I stopped using a toothpaste. No animal brushes their teeth. I stopped brushing my teeth.” The number of people who’ve told me that is just astonishing. And I’m going, “Yeah, you know, you didn’t really earn that right the first day you went raw to expect that your body could function as if you had been raw your entire life and your parents had been raw their entire life and it had gone back for generations.” I’m not really sure that no teeth care is the plan.
In fact, it’s not the plan that I recommend. I recommend a tooth care plan. I recommend that you do clean your teeth after you eat and that you do not only a careful brushing under the gum line, or right at the gum line – this is where our teeth are most vulnerable – but that you also get out the particulate matter that’s in between your teeth. Whether you’re doing that with a bristly kind of round brush or whether you’re doing that with floss or whether you’re doing that with pick or a brush pick, there’s a wide variety of ways to do it.
We eat raw food and our teeth feel so clean but in fact there’s still stuff, there’s still material. And organic material stuck between your teeth is going to be broken down by bacteria. The bacteria will produce acid that will harm your teeth. In almost every case, I would say in every case of dental issues that I’ve seen with raw fooders, it’s a matter of them having decay at the gum line. It’s always at the gum line. It’s not the enamel portion that they’re having such problems with, it’s at the gum line where there isn’t enamel. And this is because on a standard cooked food diet we actually cause a loss of gums but also an inflammation of the gums. When the gums are inflamed, even though we’ve lost some gum matter, the inflammation makes them bigger and it covers up that area of tooth that has no enamel. When the source of the irritation goes away, we start eating raw foods that are not irritating to the gums instead of the cooked foods that have irritants built right into them, the food additives all function as irritants to the gums and so they become inflamed.
When we go to raw foods and we get rid of that irritation, the inflammation also goes down at which point we start to expose the teeth at the gum line, areas of teeth that don’t have enamel, and without cleaning them on a regular basis you’re definitely going to have tartar build up. What happens is kind of like a pearl in an oyster; the pearl functions as an irritant. If you get a little tiny bit of tartar under the gum line. If you get a little piece of food under the gum line it’s like picking up the blankets on the bed, it pulls the gum off of the teeth and then anything else can get in under there. At every meal stuff starts getting under there and the gums just get worse and worse, they recede quickly.
The gums are supposed to be dull in color, they should not be shiny. They’re supposed to be sort of stippled looking. They should not be puffy looking in any way, shape or form. If your gums are puffy or shiny, if the color isn’t that of healthy gums, you need to take care of them. This idea that we can live without washing is just not founded. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the old saying goes. Certainly cleanliness is a huge part of health and hygiene for human beings. We have to take care of ourselves.