Sunday, July 13, 2014


Yup, I'm a vegan. Yup, after I went vegan I got my first cavities ever. And yup, I now know there IS a way to not only prevent but HEAL one's cavities, and being vegan is actually not the cause of tooth decay. In fact, it can be the very thing that saves our teeth. 

About one week ago, I felt a cavity forming in one of my teeth. It was fairly close to a spot in the back of my mouth where I'd gotten my first 3 fillings ever just a few months prior. I started majorly freaking out, imagining a long, endless road of more pain, drilling, and high dental bills ahead of me for the rest of my life. My family has a history of not-so-great teeth, so I couldn't shake the fear of ending up in the same boat. I looked to Google for some kind of remedy that heals cavities, and I'd heard it can and has been done by many people all over the world since the beginning of time. To be honest, searching for a natural answer from the internet just caused me to worry more. I was bombarded with hoards of un-researched, sarcastic articles about why people on a vegan diet have the worst teeth in the world, how if you want to be cavity-free you have to give up eating fruit and grains, and that to heal cavities you need to drink cod liver oil and/or consume lots of raw milk and animal organs like tongue, liver, and heart. 
UGH!!! Disgusting!! And completely untrue. Perhaps eating lots of those animal products worked to heal cavities for some people, but vegans can get the very same result without the cruelty. Why? Because it's a certain nutrient that's missing, not a certain kind of food. This nutrient is best consumed through time out in the good old sunlight. Yup, it's vitamin D. And I was VERY deficient. 

Specifically, the kind of vitamin we need is D3. The kind we get from fortified foods like orange juice, plant milks (almond, rice,  soy), tofu, and breakfast cereals is vitamin D2, which is quite different than D3 and doesn't really provide us with all we need for strong bones and teeth. The role of vitamin D3 is to aid in the body absorbing calcium. As vegans, we know that calcium is best consumed through dark leafy greens and other vegetables like broccoli. It's never difficult to get enough calcium, at least not for me because I love veggies. :) But even though I knew I was getting enough calcium, it was not being properly absorbed to strengthen my bones and especially my teeth, thereby creating cavities. 
I live in Washington state, so I get about the same amount of sunlight as your friendly neighborhood vampire. I'm pretty much the palest person I know and if I'm in the sun more than 5 or 10 minutes, I turn red as a lobster. If you're able to get your vitamin D3 from the sun, that's great! It's definitely the most natural and safe way to do it. No matter how much vitamin D3 you absorb from the sun, your body will use and distribute all it can, and then just eliminate the rest through waste. If you're like me and you take a plant-based D3 supplement, just be sure you never go over the dosage recommended on the label, because too much of any supplement can be dangerous. 
All right, so back to how I healed my cavity. I was still in a panic over the slight pain that seemed to be growing more and more, so I made an appointment for my dentist to look at it. That same day I rushed over to my local health food store and found a vegan vitamin D3 supplement. It costs a lot more than the D3 gelatin capsules, but I figured animals didn't need to die in order for my teeth to heal, or for my wallet to be fatter. The vegan D3 supplements are also WAY better quality. Here is a picture of the brand I now use:

That night I steamed up a whole bunch of vegetables for dinner, including kale- the powerhouse of vitamins and most importantly, minerals. Getting sufficient minerals from plant foods in the diet is VERY important for dental health. With them I ate an avocado. Those babies are PACKED with minerals and also, healthy whole fats. I don't promote a diet high in fat and I never use oil in my diet, but the occasional whole food sources of fats can be great for teeth, such as avocado, coconut, olives, and nuts.
I waited a few hours after eating to brush my teeth. Many times we may get the urge to brush immediately after eating, but that can often do more harm than good. Our mouths are made to break down and absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat. Our saliva has an enzyme called salivary amylase which naturally breaks down the carbohydrates/sugars that we eat so they are soft enough to swallow. This way, the saliva continues to help clean the teeth after food has been swallowed. Brushing too often or right after a meal can mess with the mouth's natural cleaning process, which is why I felt it best to wait at least an hour.

When I did brush my teeth, I used castile soap instead or regular old toothpaste. You can get castile soap at any Whole Foods or health food store, though you can sometimes find it in department or grocery stores too. Plus, they're dirt-cheap! I use Dr. Bronner's Castile bar soap in peppermint. I will be completely honest. No, it does not taste good. But you spit it out after brushing and everything's fine. You will be okay, LOL. The reason I use castile soap is because it is made naturally from oils and it doesn't contain harsh or abrasive chemicals in even the most natural of commercial toothpastes. Most naturally made toothpastes still contain some type of glycerine, which can wear away at the teeth.

I made sure to floss too. To be honest, I think a lot of cavities are just brought on by poor dental hygiene like neglecting to floss. This is why a lot of people think eating grains or fruit are bad for your teeth. If small pieces of fruit or carbohydrates get stuck in the teeth and are not removed, it can quickly cause decay as it remains stuck. Flossing is a beautiful thing, my friends. :) If you're lazy like me and don't want to fight with the old fashioned kind of floss, just use these little flosser gems.
They're super cheap and available at any grocery store.

Lastly, after brushing I brought out my secret weapon. COCONUT OIL!! If you've never heard of the method called "oil pulling" before, it may sound a little weird; even a little gross. Just stay with me on this one. It will SAVE your teeth! And fast too! Oil pulling is an ancient method for healing teeth and gums (as well as whitening the teeth) where you simply take about one tablespoon of oil in your mouth and gently swish it around for 15-20 minutes, then spit it all out. I use coconut oil because it has the most tolerable taste and a thicker texture that is best for cleaning the mouth, but olive and other types of oils work just fine too. DON'T SWALLOW THE OIL. If you accidentally swallow a little bit, don't freak out. It won't kill you or anything. When you swish, the oil is attaching to the toxins and harmful bacteria in the mouth and when you spit it out, all the bad bacteria and toxins come out with the oil! It may sound too easy, but it truly works. Aside from taking vitamin D3, I think this is really what healed my cavity overnight. After you oil pull, don't brush your teeth. You want your teeth to have some moisture from the oil because dryness can cause cavities and cracking in the teeth as well. It's best to oil pull in the morning or right before bed.

So what was my result in all of this? Well, I went to the dentist and told him the pain I'd been feeling, but even as I was talking about it, I realized the pain was no longer there. The dentist took the little air-blower and put some air on my tooth to check it's sensitivity, but I felt nothing. I was shocked, because just the day before my tooth had been very sensitive to air and cold. I couldn't believe it! The dentist concluded that whatever I'd had was now gone. He said it could have been some food that was caught in my teeth that became dislodged later on, but I knew it wasn't that. I think we all KNOW what a cavity feels like. There's nothing quite like that little twinge of pain. I walked out of there that day extremely relieved and also amazed. I'd actually HEALED myself. If I can do it, I know anyone can. You don't even have to do all the methods I mentioned, but just as a reference, here is a summary of the different ways you can have GREAT dental health (especially as a vegan).

1. Be sure to brush teeth twice a day with a soft bristle brush. Go in small, circular strokes to make sure your teeth are properly cleaned.
2. Use castile soap or a tooth soap instead of toothpastes that contain harsh chemicals.
3. Be sure to floss!!! I can't emphasize that enough.
4. Eat plenty of dark leafy greens and vegetables on a regular basis for calcium and minerals.
5. Occasionally eat some whole food fats such as avocado, coconuts, olives, and nuts.
6. Get at least 10-15 minutes per day in the sunlight. If you can't do this, take a vegan D3 supplement in the dosage recommended on the label.
7. Observe your overall health and see if there are other nutrients that may be missing in your diet. If you aren't sure, have your blood tested to see the areas where you may be lacking.
8. For whitening teeth and preventing/healing cavities, do oil pulling several times per week. Even doing it once does wonders.
9. DO NOT EAT HIGH ACID FOODS. These throw off the natural Ph of the body and cause stomach acid to go up into the throat and mouth, causing things like acid reflux, bad breath,  and tooth decay. The highest acid foods are meat (including all red meat, poultry, fish, etc.), dairy, eggs, alcohol, coffee, and black tea. Vegans won't have to worry about some of those, but it's best to stay away from all of them.
10. Get plenty of sleep. If you're doing the right things to heal your body, adequate sleep will help you heal faster and give your body the strength it needs to fight whatever ails it.

I sincerely hope this helps someone else who is as worried as I was about the health of my teeth. There IS a way to have a healthy smile without sacrificing an animals life or the overall health of your body to do it. If you find my advice questionable, that's okay. I know it goes against what a lot of people may say is possible in the dental world. All I can say is that one day I had a cavity, I did these methods, and the next day my cavity was GONE. I truly believe it can work for you too. Take care of yourselves, my friends. :)