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The Evolution of Teeth

SCMC 4-5-2013 copyby Chris Edwards, DDS

April/May 2013

Oral Bacteria Less Diverse Than Historic Populations

THE EVOLUTION OF TEETH over the last 7,500 years shows that humans today have less diverse oral bacteria than historic populations. Scientists believe that this has contributed to the chronic oral diseases that are prevalent in today’s society. The DNA of calcified bacteria on the teeth of humans throughout history sheds light on the evolving diet and behavior from the Stone Age to modern day.

 

Researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA published a recent study in Nature Genetics in which they state that in their study of the evolution of teeth over the last 7,500 years shows that humans today have less diverse oral bacteria than historic populations. Scientists believe that this has contributed to the chronic oral diseases that are prevalent in today’s society. The authors state that analyzing the DNA of calcified bacteria on the teeth of humans throughout history sheds light on the health consequences of the evolving diet and behavior from the Stone Age to modern day.

‘Manufactured’ Food A Factor

Negative changes in the bacteria of our mouths happened primarily when we moved from being hunter-gatherers to farmers and then when we passed the Industrial Revolution and started manufacturing food.

The study leader, Professor Alan Cooper said, “this is the first record of how our evolution over the last 7,500 years has impacted the bacteria we carry with us, and the important health consequences. Oral bacteria in modern man are markedly less diverse than historic populations and this is thought to contribute to chronic oral and other diseases in post-industrialized lifestyles. The modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state.”

Sugar Uses Many Monikers

In the United States our food is saturated with sugar, which is frequently hidden and goes by many other names, such as honey, rice syrup, organic dehydrated cane juice, agave nectar, barley malt syrup, corn sweetener, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, saccharine, sucrose, maltose, lactose, glucose, high fructose-corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, maltodextrin, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sorghum, treacle and turbinado sugar. Bacteria love refined carbohydrates as well as fruit sugars.

Things don’t appear to be getting any better any time in the near future. There is talk of food conglomerates trying to add the highly addictive aspartame and sorbital into our dairy products without labeling. The benefit appears to be solidly in the food conglomerates favor, as it would just perpetuate the sugar addiction and the permanent disease state, which equals ill health.

Oral Health, Systemic Health Related

The condition of the mouth has been shown to have a close association with overall systemic health. Oral disease, such as caries and gingivitis, contribute to diabetes, heart disease and pre term births of newborn babies. In these instances, the main bacterium that ruins the homeostatic beneficial ecology in the mouth is the streptococcus mutans. It is opportunistic, thrives on excessive sugar consumption, and secretes acid, which leads to an acidic pH balance in the mouth.

To maintain oral health, brush and floss daily, and be sure to get regular dental check-ups and cleanings to remove any plaque buildup. Being mindful of the sugar content in the foods you eat is a challenge but not impossible. If you can’t resist and drink a soda or eat candy, do so all at once and then rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth. This is better than sipping on a soda or eating candy all day.

Xylitol Beneficial, Recommended

Xylitol, which is a natural sweetener known as a sugar alcohol, is an excellent product that actually changes the pH of the mouth’s ecology, and helps to protect against oral disease. The streptococcus mutans love all sugars, Xylitol included. However, when the bacterium ingests Xylitol it can no longer reproduce and stops secreting the sticky substance that becomes plaque or biofilm.

Xylitol comes in a crystallized powdered form and is also available in candy, gum, toothpaste and mouth rinses. Four to six grams of Xylitol spaced out throughout the day is enough to change the pH of the mouth from an acidic, disease-causing platform to a more alkaline one. Acidic conditions lead to demineralization of the tooth enamel that results in dental disease. Higher pH, more alkaline conditions, lead to remineralization of the tooth and the reversal of the decay process in early caries.

When purchasing Xylitol products, be sure that Xylitol is listed as the number one or two ingredient in the product. These products are found at health food stores and at Smile Design & Wellness Center. It can be deadly to dogs so make sure you keep it away from your pets.

Although we are fighting an uphill battle, good oral hygiene, coupled with excellent flossing and brushing and a healthy diet is very effective at promoting and maintaining good oral health.

 

Dr. Edwards graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and Temple University School of Dentistry. He completed a general practice residency at the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. To reach Dr. Edwards you may call 321-751-7775 or visit www.SDICFL.com