In today’s interview I get to speak with Australia based, board-accredited functional dentist and author of the best selling book The Dental Diet, Dr Steven Lin.
We talk about how diet affects the health of our teeth and gums, and in turn our health overall.
Steven shares invaluable tips on healing our mouths and how to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and even preventing your child from developing crooked teeth later in life.
We also get a chance to talk about the oral microbiome (vs the gut biome), how we can keep it balanced, and why that’s important.
If you know someone who is interested in learning more about:
- Why nutrition is a root cause of oral diseases according to functional dentistry
- Why the mouth microbiome is important in dental health
- How these dental problems also affect our overall health
- How to prevent these dental issues that also affect our overall health
Then this interview is for them.
I enjoyed this interview as after talking to Steven I understand more how to use nutrition, breathing and other useful tools to address underlying dental health issues.
Using these tips he shared to help prevent common dental diseases before they have a chance to develop.
Special thanks to Steven for joining me on the show.
Enjoy the episode!
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Find summarised highlights of what we talk about during the interview.
Use the clickable timestamp links to jump direct to those points in the audio file below:
[00:19] – Introducing, Dr Steven Lin, a functional dentist who focuses on the mouth-body connection. He has a special interest in understanding dental disease through nutritional principals such as ancestral nutrition, epigenetics and the oral and gut microbiome. He is also a TEDx speaker and author of the international best-selling book The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link between Your Teeth, Real Food, and Life-Changing Natural Health.
[01:18] – Breastfeeding has a profound impact on our dental health including decreasing the need for braces. Babies who aren’t breastfeed are also predisposed to obesity later in life. Steven explains that we get powerful messages on the health of our body from our dental health. (Biohackers Lab Tip: Listen to Lily Nichols discuss the role of nutrition in pregnancy and developing children)
[03:58] – Steven explains how breastfeeding also shapes the child’s palate; expanding the maxillary bone and creating space for the teeth. Anthropological studies show that once we take ourselves away from natural based diet we get a narrower jaw and associated dental problems.
[07:03] – What can we do if we haven’t been breastfed or aren’t breastfeeding our baby? Steven explains that there are two main forces that impact on the width of the palate; the tongue posture and breathing through the nose.
[10:42] – Kids can correct their dental arch by correcting their breathing and tongue posture; this is an idea pioneered by Prof. John Mew and his son Dr Mike Mew called orthotropics or myofunctional orthodontics. Correcting our breathing is important throughout life too in reducing the risk of some severe chronic diseases.
[11:50] – Mouth taping can help with training ourselves to breathe through the nose and help improve sleep apnoea. Try it while watching TV or even exercising. Steve also explains how studies showed playing the Didgeridoo can also help with sleep apnoea! (Biohackers Lab Tip: For more on the importance of good quality sleep listen to our interview with Dr Amy Bender)
[15:18] – The oral microbiome (the good and bad bacteria in our mouth) is an underappreciated and extremely important part of our body’s microbiome. How does our diet affect it? Tooth decay results as a loss of diversity in the oral microbiome; there are bacteria that protect against tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath and other diseases. There is a trend showing that a loss of microbiome diversity leads to dental diseases.
[18:26] – Weston A. Price studied indigenous populations and found they often have lower rates of tooth decay than a lot of Europeans without brushing and flossing. Brushing and flossing is ineffective if there are underlying problems.
[20:55] – There are diets that are beneficial for the microbiome and others are detrimental and should be avoided. Steven explains why simple sugars, white flour and refined vegetable oils that create inflammation should all be avoided.
[23:39] – Steve is a fan of the Palaeolithic diet. The ketogenic diet is also beneficial as it removes the simple carbohydrates and gets back to real food. Steven explains that the downside is it can affect the breath negatively. (Biohackers Lab Tip: Dr Gary Fettke and Sam Feltham from the Public Health Collaboration also discussed the benefits of real foods)
[25:00] – Coffee and certain teas are ferments and reasonably bacteria friendly; some types of tea may also release certain antioxidants and phytonutrients that inhibit bad bugs. Both tea and coffee are generally beneficial – as long as we don’t have too much of them. Steven also explains if we should be worried about staining.
[27:06] – What about fruit? Because it is a source of sugar – that we generally get too much of – Steven believes it should be taken with a little bit of caution.
[28:58] – In terms of vegetables, Steven encourages people to have a variety of both raw and cooked vegetables. Some are better cooked if we want to extract more nutrients, while eating them raw means we get the benefit of chewing, releasing more enzymes and feeding the potentially probiotic bacteria.
[30:50] – Steven explains the link between chronic digestive problems and not chewing enough; digestion begins in the mouth.
[31:15] – Most probiotics come in the form of a tablet for the gut but there are also oral probiotics available e.g. BLIS K12. Steve explains that while these can be effective for tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, they provide just a small contribution to the biome and can’t fix everything. Changing our lifestyle to include more ferments such as kefirs and kamboochas as well as naturally cultured foods is a natural way to introduce a variety of species to our biome.
[33:23] – Is milk essential for strong teeth and bones? Foods, such as milk and dairy, that contain fat-soluble vitamins are critical for the health of our teeth. Steven explains that once we have calcium, it’s important that we are able to use it which is where Vitamin D comes in. The quality of the milk is important, however; it needs to be full fat, pasture raised in the sun.
[35:52] – Raw dairy has the amazingly diverse bacterial species. A lot of the milk that we have today on supermarket shelf is pasteurised homogenised and completely devoid of the natural diversity resulting in a lot of the problems we have with dairy. It is important that you are close to the source, so it doesn’t spoil but the benefits are diverse source of probiotic bacteria.
[37:05] – What are some natural sources of K2? Steven explains the different forms of K2 such as Menaquinone (MK) 4 and MK7, and why it is important. We don’t get enough of this crucial nutrient causing problems such as weak bones, calcified arteries and tooth decay. (Biohackers Lab Tip: Listen to our interview with Kevin Kennedy for more about the benefits of grass fed butter and K2)
[38:42] – Whatever diet you follow, to ensure you are getting enough K2 make sure you are eating full-fat dairy form naturally raised, grass fed animals. Another rich source of MK4 includes organ meats and organic egg yolks. Rich sources of MK7 are natto and fermented foods.
[40:32] – Steven recommends people on the carnivore diet test their vitamin D levels, particularly if they are not eating organ meats and/or getting enough sun. Steven explains how K2 is more difficult to test for but because Vitamin D and K2 go together, we can use vitamin D to check if we are doing ok in this regard.
[43:06] – Are tartar and plaque build-up behind front teeth side effects of ketogenic or low-carb diets? People with biggest build up usually take vitamin D supplements and usually have disease such as kidney problem or chronic digestive problems. Supplementation with K2 will result in a reduction of this.
[45:25] – We all get a bit of plaque build-up there because of where the saliva glands are, but if the build-up is excessive it can indicate calcium problems. Steven explains one of the best markers for cardiovascular health is the coronary calcium score and vitamin D and K2 are linked to how we remove calcium from arteries as well as other soft tissues.
[46:52] – Having a calculus score done at the dentist can tell us how much calcium build-up there is and indicate if there is an imbalance. What’s more, it is also an excellent biomarker for cardiovascular disease. To correct this, we can tweak our diet and take a K2 supplement. Steven explains the heart and mouth link.
[49:44] – Steven explains why he doesn’t believe there is any value to pH focused diets as acids have a role in the mouth too e.g. apple cider vinegar is beneficial. While trying to balance the pH may be relevant for certain conditions, overall, the body will do that on its own and eating a whole food diet is more important.
[50:50] – Testing the oral microbiome can provide us with a huge amount of information, which is why Steven believes it will be the future of healthcare. pH testing using the simple strips from the dentist can also give you some useful information as to how you are managing the pH in the mouth which is a critical factor of dental disease.
[52:30] – Steven explains why we should not use mouthwash. Mouthwash decreases the diversity of the oral microbiome which communicates to the gut biome and increases risk of systemic diseases. A recent study has shown using an alcoholic mouthwash increases the risk of prediabetes.
[53:33] – Finally what are Steven’s views on oil pulling and why he recommends that people eat more fat in their diet?
Recap: for healthy teeth and gums get a lot of good healthy fat for fat-soluble vitamins, chew your food to stimulate different enzymes, and eat a diet that is going to feed the microbiome. Sourcing or food is important, too.
[54:58] – To follow Steven and find out more visit his website or follow him on twitter: @DrStevenLin where he posts about functional dentistry, food and the diet and mouth connection. His book The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link between Your Teeth, Real Food, and Life-Changing Natural Health is available on Amazon in the UK, Australia and the US.