Tag Archives: bacteria

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.

Paleo Diet May Be Better for Our Teeth

NIce teeth!

I just ran across this NPR story from February, 2013. Audrey Carlsen wrote it. An excerpt:

“Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”

And thousands of years later, we’re still waging, and often losing, our war against oral disease.

Our changing diets are largely to blame.

In a study published in the latest Nature Genetics, Cooper and his research team looked at calcified plaque on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric human skeletons. What they found was that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar — so too did the composition of bacteria in our mouths.

Not all oral bacteria are bad. In fact, many of these microbes help us by protecting against more dangerous pathogens.

That makes me wonder if antibacterial mouthwashes are a good thing for otherwise healthy people. Do they kill good bacteria, too?

Read the whole enchilada.