David Clode on Unsplash
“You have a cavity.”
“What?!” I must have misunderstood.
Floating. I was floating in confusion and denial. There’s no way. No way. My diet is impeccable. Well, impeccable enough to not struggle with tooth decay.
The Twilight Zone. I was in a surreal land where eating a diet of 90-95% veggies and proteins resulted in cavities. WTH?!
They told me to get a hand mirror and check it out when I got home. It was right at the back. Awkward spot for sure. I asked about remineralization. No, they said. No, it’s too deep. And then they scheduled me a time to fill it.
I numbly entered the info into my phone. Denial is a big river.
And then I walked out of the dentist’s office in curiosity. I had built a bridge over Denial. I had time before the next appointment. I would investigate and see what I could do to encourage my tooth to heal.
What is tooth decay? It doesn’t come from the outside. We tend to think of it as happening when sticky things stay on our teeth. We tend to think of it as happening when we neglect brushing and flossing. So it seems to come from the outside.
Cleaning the teeth for sure makes a difference. When we remove bits of food the bacteria which fill our mouths can’t eat as freely and that definitely helps the situation, but there’s more to it.
Our teeth are not dead wood stuck in our mouths to help us chew. No. They emerge from the body. They are part of us. They are made of us. What we eat, therefore, helps to create them.
Clearly we want to avoid sugar and other low-quality foods. For so many reasons. Our bodies literally don’t have a use for them. But even eating certain whole foods can put strain on the integrity of our teeth.
And that’s where, I believe, I fell down. I had been eating gradually gradually oh so gradually—almost imperceptibly—more nuts each day. For awhile. Months? That’s my guess.
Nuts are a great snack, a fantastic source of minerals. Perfect for when I was peckish and not ready to stop work to cook. Perfect to grab as I walked through the kitchen on my way to let the dogs out. Perfect to grab as I walked back to let them in.
Perfect as a sub for any wheat flour I may have wanted for baking or breading. Perfect as a sub for any milk I may have wanted for baking or turmeric drinks.
I was eating a lot of nuts. Almonds. Pecans. Pistachios. Cashews. And seeds, too. Sunflowers. Pepitas. I like crunchy, vaguely sweet things.
Nuts are not meant to be eaten in quantity. Think about how they grow. Would our ancestors sit for hours under a pecan tree cracking shells to harvest nutmeats to last only one day? No way. They would be treasured and eaten with all due respect for the whole process of growth and harvest.
Which is as it should be because nuts have high levels of phytic acid which the human body cannot handle in large quantities.
Yes, nuts are fantastic sources of minerals. Yes, they have good fat, fiber, and protein. And they are meant, they are designed, to be eaten in moderation. Moderation does not mean handful upon handful, day after day. In every possible form imaginable.
Moderation means a “dainty” handful or, occasionally, two. Moderation means 2-4 tablespoons of nut butter.
I wasn’t sitting down to a meal of nuts, a bowlful of nuts, no, I was having them here and there. Kind of the opposite of Sam-I-Am. I had nuts and seeds with the fox, in the box, in the rain, on the train, I didn’t care—I had nuts and seeds everywhere.
Think cashew “cheese” to go with the almond flour scone accompanied by a nice golden milk latte made with more nuts. And flax or chia seeds mixed into my morning shake, sprinkled on my meals.
Think of all that phytic acid. Yipes.
Phytic acid is part of nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Soaking reduces it, but it is still present and still potentially dangerous. I use that word advisedly.
Nuts and seeds, dangerous? Grains and legumes, dangerous?
No, of course not. But too much phytic acid strains the body’s mineral supplies and can weaken bones and...yep, teeth.
As the phytic-acid-blessed food travels through the digestive system the phytates bind with minerals in the body. It’s just what they do. Minerals are stored in our bones, in our teeth. So, even though the nuts may be providing some minerals the nuts are also taking some away and depleting our reserves. Creating weak areas in our bones and teeth.
Cough, cough, can you say, cavity? A perfect setup for tooth decay.
This is a problem particularly when nuts (seeds, grains, etc) are not “properly prepared” to reduce the phytates.
I have been known to “properly prepare” by soaking nuts overnight in a salt solution and then re-drying them in a dehydrator, but I had fallen off that time-consuming preparation-and-planning-requiring wagon. And if we’re only eating a few nuts? No big deal.
But. Handfuls? And almond flour as an ingredient? Almond milk every time I opened a carton?
I gave myself a cavity.
So I jumped off the nuts-and-seeds bandwagon, stopped the cherry jam that I was eating occasionally, and cancelled my dentist appointment. I wanted more time for my experiment.
I was already oil-pulling daily. And I added a dusting of a mineral-based tooth powder most nights. I began taking a liquid mineral supplement which my body absorbs well—based on muscle-testing with my chiropractor. And I also directed energy, healing energy, into my mouth—through the tooth in question.
I had a plan, a path, and a vision of a whole and healthy tooth.
I kept it up. Never rescheduled the dental appointment. So it was with bated breath that I showed up for my semi-annual cleaning. Six months ago they had discovered a large cavity. What would they find this day?
Nothing. Nothing. No comment. No pokey stick sticking.
I asked, “So what about the cavity?”
“There isn’t one.” They checked the monitor. There was the picture of the tooth with the colored portion indicating the damage.
“I healed it!”
“What did you do?”
They were incredulous. And I was floating again. This time in a sea of joy and relief. And satisfaction. Pride.
I did that. I made the space for my tooth to heal.
I healed my tooth. Or, rather, I gave my body what it needed to heal its tooth.
Respect. Our bodies are healing miracles, y’all. Healing miracles.
Can I get an amen?!