How Low Iron and Zinc Are Linked to Tooth Decay

People suffering from tooth decay are commonly deficient in iron and zinc. However, how these deficiencies cause tooth decay can only be understood through the prism of holistic health - where we acknowledge the links between different body parts and systems.​​​​​​​​

What is Iron, and What Does it Do?

Iron is critical to mitochondrial function, which is how the body generates energy. It works like this: the mitochondria combines nutrients (fats and sugars, for example) with oxygen to produce a molecule called ATP. ATP is a molecule that stores and transfers energy within the cells and is responsible for powering the human body.

When people are low in iron, they cannot produce sufficient ATP. When ATP levels drop, the body may signal a need for more energy by triggering cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Consuming sugar provides a quick source of glucose, which can be rapidly metabolised to produce ATP and temporarily alleviate the energy deficit.

Low Iron = Sugar Cravings

These cravings for sugar and carbohydrates result in people consuming sugary foods that, as we all know, drive tooth decay. This is just one common way in which low iron or iron deficiency drives tooth decay. For deeper insights on how sugar causes tooth decay (by disrupting hormone regulation and reversing dentinal fluid flow), click here.

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Low Zinc = Mouth Breathing

Zinc, on the other hand, is critical to immune function. Impaired immune function often results in persistent allergies, colds and flu, which inhibits people's ability to breathe through their nose. When people cannot breathe through their nose, they mouth breathe.

Mouth Breathing Causes Tooth Decay

The issue with mouth breathing is that it dries the mouth out - ultimately depleting saliva. When this happens, the mouth's pH is thrown out of balance - becoming more acidic than alkaline. Similarly, the mouth loses its in-built cleaning mechanism without adequate saliva, and food particles are more likely to become stuck between the teeth and around the mouth. This allows bad bugs and bacteria to multiply with ease and leads to a decline in oral health. For more information on how mouth breathing causes tooth decay, click here.

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Mineral and Nutrient Deficiencies Causing Tooth Decay

Most dentists commonly neglect the links between mineral and nutrient deficiencies and tooth decay. This is for three main reasons:

  1. They are not properly trained on the relationship between diet and dentistry
  2. They are ill-equipped to advise patients on topics surrounding nutrition
  3. They are ill-equipped to facilitate change concerning people's diet (and lifestyle)

Thus, advice on tooth decay is typically limited to "eat less sugar" and "brush more". The issue with such advice is that it ignores the root of the problem and ultimately does nothing to fix it. Patients will have difficulty lowering their sugar intake while deficient in iron (and subsequently ATP). Similarly, if the patient is low in zinc, the immune system will remain impaired, and they will likely have difficulty breathing nasally. And, as long as they continue to mouth breathe, tooth decay will persist.

The Benefits of a Holistic Approach

Only by taking a holistic approach to health can these issues be addressed and rectified. This is why we at Eric Davis Dental pay close attention to diet, nutrition and lifestyle and work collaboratively with our sister clinic, Nutrition Diagnostics, to help address the root cause of the problem and facilitate meaningful, long-lasting change.

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