Book review: The Dental Diet by Dr. Steven Lin

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this review. I happened to pick up this book recently, and thought it was extremely accessible, highly informative, and worth sharing with my readers!

Are you convinced that tooth decay just comes down to bad genetics? That some kids are just destined to have crooked teeth? That wisdom teeth that don’t fit inside our mouth is normal? Dr. Steven Lin, DDS is here to set the record straight.

In his book “The Dental Diet: The surprising link between your teeth, real food, and life-changing natural health”, Dr. Lin presents a convincing argument that the reason for our modern dental ills is not a lack of oral hygiene; but rather, a modern diet of processed foods that is devoid of the nutrients our teeth need for proper growth and development:

“A lot of people think that their teeth are basically inanimate objects that they have to take care of from the outside – like ceramic vases that they have to clean and polish but that can maintain themselves. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our teeth are very much alive on the inside, and they need a very specific balance of minerals, vitamins, and proteins to stay strong and healthy. [..] Far from inanimate objects, your teeth are constantly building, maintaining, and protecting themselves from the outside world.” (p. 62, 65)

My own experience with modern dentistry

About two years ago, I was told at my dental checkup that I had two small cavities and that I could make an appointment to get them filled and be in and out in an hour. While this was clearly the simplest choice, it didn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s due to a family history of arthritis and multiple joint replacements, but I’ve always been concerned with keeping my bones and joints in good shape. If my teeth weren’t strong and healthy, how could I be sure that the rest of my skeletal system was? As the only bones I could visibly “see” on a regular basis, I saw my teeth as a window to the rest of my body – a way to know if my diet and biochemistry was supporting optimal skeletal health.

Dr. Lin echoes this sentiment in his book:

 “…what most people don’t realize is that when you get a cavity, it’s more than a sign that you’re consuming too many sugary foods and drinks; it’s a sign that some important processes in your body aren’t working properly – processes you might not even know exist.” (p. 81)

At the time, I picked up the book “Cure Tooth Decay” by Ramiel Nagel and became enamored with the idea that teeth could potentially be remineralized. After all, if you fracture your wrist, you don’t get a filling! Your body builds new bone around the injured site. I quickly adopted many of the principles in the book.

At my visit to the dentist three months ago, my cavities had not gotten any larger, suggesting that I had at least halted any further decay and may be on my way to stronger teeth. Since then, I have been actively looking for ways to further improve my diet and dental health.

So when I came across Dr. Steven Lin’s book “The Dental Diet”, I had to read it. And it was everything that I could have asked for – highly accessible, yet extremely detailed, with beautiful illustrations of tooth and facial anatomy – the ultimate mix of scientific explanation and practical application.

Disillusioned with conventional dentistry

I particularly enjoyed Dr. Lin’s account of how he came to recognize the role of nutrition in dental health. Feeling lost in his work, he decided to take a break from dentistry to travel Europe. One day in Istanbul, he happened to come across a book in the hostel he was staying in. The book was “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects”, by none other than Weston A. Price.

Weston A. Price was a dentist who, in the early 1900s, set out on a journey around the world to document the health and dentition of hundreds of indigenous peoples. What he found was a virtual absence of chronic disease, tooth decay, and crooked teeth in traditional cultures that had not been exposed to modern processed foods. This book gave Dr. Lin hope that he could actually help his patients prevent dental problems, rather than just treating them once they had already occurred. Sounds a little like functional medicine!

The importance of fat-soluble vitamins

In “The Dental Diet”, Dr. Lin reviews the most salient findings of Weston A. Price. Dr. Price observed that indigenous populations with beautifully white teeth, broad dental arches, and an absence of tooth decay all seemed to go out of their way to consume foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, when some of these people gained access to modern processed food supplies and lost many of their native foods, they rapidly developed dental disease.

The most important nutrients for dental health are:

Vitamin D: A hormone important for the formation of dentin and the absorption of calcium from the gut. Low vitamin D causes the body to release parathyroid hormone, which pulls calcium from teeth and bones. Sources of Vitamin D include sunlight, cold-water fatty fish, pasture-raised egg yolks, liver, or supplements.

Vitamin K2: Activates the hormone osteocalcin, which is produced by osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and helps carry calcium into teeth and bones. Dr. Lin suggests that deviated septum and excess dietary plaque may both be caused by Vitamin K2 deficiency. Sources of K2 include pasture-raised egg yolks, organ meats, butter or cheese from grass-fed cows, shellfish, sauerkraut, or supplements.

Vitamin A: May help osteoclasts break down bone so that new bone cells can grow. Vitamin A also supports the osteoimmune system and deficiency may cause cleft palate. Sources of Vitamin A include cod liver oil, liver, and beta-carotene rich vegetables cooked in olive oil or another fat.

Dr. Lin reviews the role of each of these fat-soluble vitamins in detail in the book.

The role of the oral microbiome

Perhaps the thing that separates “The Dental Diet” from previous dental nutrition books the most (and the part I was most excited about) is Dr. Lin’s discussion of the oral microbiome. While we’ve known that bacteria play a role in tooth decay for decades, we are just beginning to appreciate the role of microbial communities in oral health.

For simplicity’s sake, Dr. Lin suggests dividing microbes into “slow eaters” and “fast eaters”. “Fast eaters” thrive on simple carbohydrates like sugar, metabolizing them to acids that can pull calcium out of the tooth enamel. Your teeth can handle a small amount of sugar and the acids produced from it, but too much can overwhelm the mouth with acid. “Slow-eaters”, on the other hand, metabolize fiber and complex carbohydrates, and in the gut, produce short-chain fatty acids that help modulate the immune system.

Dr. Lin suggests that based on analyses from ancient skulls, the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which plays a major role in tooth decay, expanded exponentially in the oral microbiome about 10,000 years ago – right around the start of the agricultural revolution. Oral microbial diversity took a further nosedive in the 1850s, during the Industrial Revolution, and likely fueled the rise in dental disease.

Other topics included in the book

I don’t want to give away the entire book, so here’s just a sneak peek of all of the knowledge packed into 281 pages:

  • The importance of nasal breathing, and how breastfeeding conditions babies to breathe through the nose
  • How our facial structure impacts our airways and breathing
  • What causes snoring and why we should see it as a warning sign
  • The connection of the mouth to chronic diseases like acid reflux, Crohn’s, IBS, ADHD, sinus issues, headaches, and more.
  • Why we should eat more tough fibrous foods, like carrots and celery, with every meal to strengthen the jawbone
  • Exercises to correct your breathing and improve the functioning of the airway
  • Tooth structure and the osteoimmune system
  • Why bleeding gums can signal inflammation
  • The mouth-gut axis and how oral health impacts the digestive system
  • The epigenetics of jaw development and why our skulls are thinner than our ancestors

The only thing I wish Dr. Lin had been able to cover in greater depth is the role of mechanical forces on bone mineralization and the connection of the oral microbiome with systemic disease, but given that this book was already jam-packed with knowledge, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize!

The book concludes with Dr. Lin’s Dental Diet Pyramid and a 40-day meal plan complete with recipes to help anyone implement the diet with ease. His hope is that even if readers don’t adhere to it strictly, understanding the principles will help them feel more at ease about their dental health. I certainly plan to incorporate some of the exercises and recommendations from the book into my own life.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and hope I’ve convinced you to grab a copy, if nothing else than to better understand your teeth. If you adopt even a few of the principles Dr. Lin outlines in the book, your teeth (and your dentist) will thank you!

If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter to receive updates when new articles are published.

Book review: The Dental Diet by Dr. Steven Lin

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this review. I happened to pick up this book recently, and thought it was extremely accessible, highly informative, and worth sharing with my readers!

Are you convinced that tooth decay just comes down to bad genetics? That some kids are just destined to have crooked teeth? That wisdom teeth that don’t fit inside our mouth is normal? Dr. Steven Lin, DDS is here to set the record straight.

In his book “The Dental Diet: The surprising link between your teeth, real food, and life-changing natural health”, Dr. Lin presents a convincing argument that the reason for our modern dental ills is not a lack of oral hygiene; but rather, a modern diet of processed foods that is devoid of the nutrients our teeth need for proper growth and development:

“A lot of people think that their teeth are basically inanimate objects that they have to take care of from the outside – like ceramic vases that they have to clean and polish but that can maintain themselves. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our teeth are very much alive on the inside, and they need a very specific balance of minerals, vitamins, and proteins to stay strong and healthy. [..] Far from inanimate objects, your teeth are constantly building, maintaining, and protecting themselves from the outside world.” (p. 62, 65)

My own experience with modern dentistry

About two years ago, I was told at my dental checkup that I had two small cavities and that I could make an appointment to get them filled and be in and out in an hour. While this was clearly the simplest choice, it didn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s due to a family history of arthritis and multiple joint replacements, but I’ve always been concerned with keeping my bones and joints in good shape. If my teeth weren’t strong and healthy, how could I be sure that the rest of my skeletal system was? As the only bones I could visibly “see” on a regular basis, I saw my teeth as a window to the rest of my body – a way to know if my diet and biochemistry was supporting optimal skeletal health.

Dr. Lin echoes this sentiment in his book:

 “…what most people don’t realize is that when you get a cavity, it’s more than a sign that you’re consuming too many sugary foods and drinks; it’s a sign that some important processes in your body aren’t working properly – processes you might not even know exist.” (p. 81)

At the time, I picked up the book “Cure Tooth Decay” by Ramiel Nagel and became enamored with the idea that teeth could potentially be remineralized. After all, if you fracture your wrist, you don’t get a filling! Your body builds new bone around the injured site. I quickly adopted many of the principles in the book.

At my visit to the dentist three months ago, my cavities had not gotten any larger, suggesting that I had at least halted any further decay and may be on my way to stronger teeth. Since then, I have been actively looking for ways to further improve my diet and dental health.

So when I came across Dr. Steven Lin’s book “The Dental Diet”, I had to read it. And it was everything that I could have asked for – highly accessible, yet extremely detailed, with beautiful illustrations of tooth and facial anatomy – the ultimate mix of scientific explanation and practical application.

Disillusioned with conventional dentistry

I particularly enjoyed Dr. Lin’s account of how he came to recognize the role of nutrition in dental health. Feeling lost in his work, he decided to take a break from dentistry to travel Europe. One day in Istanbul, he happened to come across a book in the hostel he was staying in. The book was “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects”, by none other than Weston A. Price.

Weston A. Price was a dentist who, in the early 1900s, set out on a journey around the world to document the health and dentition of hundreds of indigenous peoples. What he found was a virtual absence of chronic disease, tooth decay, and crooked teeth in traditional cultures that had not been exposed to modern processed foods. This book gave Dr. Lin hope that he could actually help his patients prevent dental problems, rather than just treating them once they had already occurred. Sounds a little like functional medicine!

The importance of fat-soluble vitamins

In “The Dental Diet”, Dr. Lin reviews the most salient findings of Weston A. Price. Dr. Price observed that indigenous populations with beautifully white teeth, broad dental arches, and an absence of tooth decay all seemed to go out of their way to consume foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, when some of these people gained access to modern processed food supplies and lost many of their native foods, they rapidly developed dental disease.

The most important nutrients for dental health are:

Vitamin D: A hormone important for the formation of dentin and the absorption of calcium from the gut. Low vitamin D causes the body to release parathyroid hormone, which pulls calcium from teeth and bones. Sources of Vitamin D include sunlight, cold-water fatty fish, pasture-raised egg yolks, liver, or supplements.

Vitamin K2: Activates the hormone osteocalcin, which is produced by osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and helps carry calcium into teeth and bones. Dr. Lin suggests that deviated septum and excess dietary plaque may both be caused by Vitamin K2 deficiency. Sources of K2 include pasture-raised egg yolks, organ meats, butter or cheese from grass-fed cows, shellfish, sauerkraut, or supplements.

Vitamin A: May help osteoclasts break down bone so that new bone cells can grow. Vitamin A also supports the osteoimmune system and deficiency may cause cleft palate. Sources of Vitamin A include cod liver oil, liver, and beta-carotene rich vegetables cooked in olive oil or another fat.

Dr. Lin reviews the role of each of these fat-soluble vitamins in detail in the book.

The role of the oral microbiome

Perhaps the thing that separates “The Dental Diet” from previous dental nutrition books the most (and the part I was most excited about) is Dr. Lin’s discussion of the oral microbiome. While we’ve known that bacteria play a role in tooth decay for decades, we are just beginning to appreciate the role of microbial communities in oral health.

For simplicity’s sake, Dr. Lin suggests dividing microbes into “slow eaters” and “fast eaters”. “Fast eaters” thrive on simple carbohydrates like sugar, metabolizing them to acids that can pull calcium out of the tooth enamel. Your teeth can handle a small amount of sugar and the acids produced from it, but too much can overwhelm the mouth with acid. “Slow-eaters”, on the other hand, metabolize fiber and complex carbohydrates, and in the gut, produce short-chain fatty acids that help modulate the immune system.

Dr. Lin suggests that based on analyses from ancient skulls, the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which plays a major role in tooth decay, expanded exponentially in the oral microbiome about 10,000 years ago – right around the start of the agricultural revolution. Oral microbial diversity took a further nosedive in the 1850s, during the Industrial Revolution, and likely fueled the rise in dental disease.

Other topics included in the book

I don’t want to give away the entire book, so here’s just a sneak peek of all of the knowledge packed into 281 pages:

  • The importance of nasal breathing, and how breastfeeding conditions babies to breathe through the nose
  • How our facial structure impacts our airways and breathing
  • What causes snoring and why we should see it as a warning sign
  • The connection of the mouth to chronic diseases like acid reflux, Crohn’s, IBS, ADHD, sinus issues, headaches, and more.
  • Why we should eat more tough fibrous foods, like carrots and celery, with every meal to strengthen the jawbone
  • Exercises to correct your breathing and improve the functioning of the airway
  • Tooth structure and the osteoimmune system
  • Why bleeding gums can signal inflammation
  • The mouth-gut axis and how oral health impacts the digestive system
  • The epigenetics of jaw development and why our skulls are thinner than our ancestors

The only thing I wish Dr. Lin had been able to cover in greater depth is the role of mechanical forces on bone mineralization and the connection of the oral microbiome with systemic disease, but given that this book was already jam-packed with knowledge, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize!

The book concludes with Dr. Lin’s Dental Diet Pyramid and a 40-day meal plan complete with recipes to help anyone implement the diet with ease. His hope is that even if readers don’t adhere to it strictly, understanding the principles will help them feel more at ease about their dental health. I certainly plan to incorporate some of the exercises and recommendations from the book into my own life.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and hope I’ve convinced you to grab a copy, if nothing else than to better understand your teeth. If you adopt even a few of the principles Dr. Lin outlines in the book, your teeth (and your dentist) will thank you!

If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter to receive updates when new articles are published.

By |2018-03-07T15:21:42+00:00March 7th, 2018|