Another Dentist Blames Neolithic Diet For Cavities

I found another dentist who believes cavities (dental caries) are a neolithic disease caused by a mismatch between the standard Western diet and human evolutionary biology. Meet Dr. Mark Burhenne:

It is generally well accepted that tooth decay, in the modern sense, is a relatively new phenomena. Until the rise of agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago, there was nearly no tooth decay in the human race. Cavities became endemic in the 17th century but became an epidemic in the middle of the 20th century (1950).

If we understand that tooth decay started when people started farming, rather than hunting and gathering, it’s clear that tooth decay is the result of a mismatch between what we’re eating and what our bodies are expecting us to eat based on how they evolved.


The recent changes in our lifestyle create a “mismatch” for the mouth, which evolved under vastly different environments than what our mouths are exposed to these days. Our mouths evolved to be chewing tough meats and fibrous vegetables. Sugar laden fruit was a rare and special treat for our paleolithic ancestors. Now, our diets are filled with heavily processed foods that take hardly any energy to chew — smoothies, coffees, and sodas high in sugar, white bread, and crackers to name just a few.

Read the whole thing.

It’s disconcerting that Dr. Burhenne says Streptococcus mutans (a germ linked to cavities) is the same germ that causes strep throat. That’s not right. Strep throat is usually caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, aka Group A Strep.

Steve Parker, M.D.

2 responses to “Another Dentist Blames Neolithic Diet For Cavities

  1. Hi Dr. Parker! Pleased to see that the message is getting out there. The article erroneously states that the bacterium that causes cavities is the same species of bacteria associated with strep throat, which I believe was an editing error — you’re correct that Streptococcus pyogenes causes strep throat and Streptococcus mutans is associated with cavities — and these two types of bacteria are the same *genus*, not the same species. I’ve asked Huffington Post to make this correction. Look forward to reading more of your blog.

    – Dr. B

    • Thanks for dropping by, Dr. B.

      I have more interest in dental problems than the average physician. I’ve always wondered why we have so many oral issues when eating is so critical for survival. The answer may be that we’ve strayed so far from our ancestral diet.