Teeth and grains don’t mix

Lessons from examination of the Tyrolean Ice Man, Otzi, continue as his remains are sliced, examined, and scanned. We now learn that he had dental decay.

See this National Geographic report: Leader of the Plaque: Iceman Otzi had Bad Teeth.:

The 3-D Scans reveal the mess that was Otzi’s mouth, especially around his back teeth. The gum tissue surrounding the rear molars had retreated almost to the tip of the root. The tooth decay is significant because it shows how starchy foods and the agriculture that created them were a part of Otzi’s regular diet. The team attributes his cavities to eating more breads and cereals.

As we have recently discussed, tooth decay was uncommon during the pre-Neolithic period. Despite the lack of fluoridated water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, dentists, and orthodontists, most primitive humans were spared tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, even through late adulthood . . . until we consumed grains.

So even ancient wild grains were responsible for tooth decay. In Otzi’s case, it was einkorn and/or Triticum wheat. (A number of analyses have been performed on his intestinal contents, such as this genetic analysis of food remnants.)

This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: Modern children, teenagers, and adults suffer tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, along with malformations of the maxillary and mandibular bones that result in crooked teeth. Surely these changes would have proven maladaptive in a primitive world without dental hygiene and dental care. If you can’t chew your food at age 18 because you’ve lost many of your teeth, well, in a primitive setting you die of starvation.

Primitive people who did not eat grains were therefore relatively free of dental decay–because they ate no grains. Otzi lived during a time when wild grains were increasingly being incorporated into the diet of Homo sapiens . . . and he’s got the teeth to prove it.

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  1. Brad

    How can this be proven to be the real reason he has bad teeth? What is it that they are comparing to or is this just your professional opinion?
    My wife was raised on grains as well as meats and her teeth are perfect… They are straight and she has no cavities. This goes for her siblings as well, but no her parents. So, does this rule out good genes and add in a stroke of luck?
    My three children also have great teeth with no cavities and fairly straight. They were, as all children, not the greatest at brushing their teeth. Constant reminders, thats if and when my wife and I would remember to remind them. We have poor memories, maybe it was the wheat? (LOL)
    I know grains are not a necessity of life. I have removed grains from my diet for almost a year since I read Wheat Belly and Good Calories, Bad Calories. I do not feel as I am suffering in anyway leaving these out of my diet though sometimes they sneak in on a piece of KFC chicken or when I go to my mum’s for dinner; I can’t say no to her… Having said that bit about mum, when I cheat, I pay a big price the following day. I don’t consume much grains at all and I suffer from Brain Fog, upset stomach, fatigue and down right grumpiness…
    Back to teeth… My teeth suck! The dentist told me it had to do with too much Fluoride… My mum says she added it to everything for me. Being the first child I got the brunt of what my parents thought was the right thing to do. My two sisters, not so much… My sister’s teeth are not perfect, but not as bad as mine…
    I still fail to understand the correlation between Otzi’s teeth and grain…
    Hope this makes some sense to the reader? I had KFC last night while on the road so it reads fine to me…


    • Boundless

      > I still fail to understand the correlation between Otzi’s teeth and grain…

      1. Self-challenging.
      If a modern theory can be falsified by the fossil record, integrity requires taking a look.

      2. When correlation is all you’ve got, you ignore it at your peril.
      Wheat appears to be at least as destructive to teeth and gums as sugar.

      And correlation isn’t all we’ve got. See:

      You didn’t have KFC. It had you. :)

    • Dian

      I know how you feel. I feel horrible the day after I eat wheat. I call it a “Wheat Hangover” because that’s just almost what it feels like! It feels like I had alcohol!

      I’m not perfect. I’m off wheat 99% of the time and sometimes I indulge.. and I’m sorry the next day with a general sick feeling, brain fog, and lethargy like I can’t drag my self around. Those bad Wheat Hangovers are helping me to stay off it, so I’m glad really, that I get them. It could be worse like people who are getting wheat damage to their bodies and don’t realize it. They think they can tolerate it.

      • Phillis

        I absolutely know how I feel when I eat wheat of any kind. It might take a couple hours or a day but when it hits it is the PITS! I accidently got into some the other day. I had a couple French fries when out with my husband and didn’t check to see if they had been dusted with flour like some do. Silly me! I thought that because they were potatoes that it would be okay. The next day I got hit with horrible stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Nope, it was not a tummy bug either. I have had this before when accidently ingesting wheat. Sad but it does keep me on the straight and narrow for sure!!!

  2. Brian

    Take away your wife’s tooth brush as well as her dentist and possibly her teeth might not be so perfect. In the 1920 a dentist by the name of Weston Price went on a 10 year around the world expedtion to study hunter gatherers who were still eating thier traditional diets because he realized civilization and the grain based diet was becoming the norm around the world and wanted to explore the effects of different diets. His work can be found on-line with pictures and reports from every continent.
    He found that dental caries were less than 1%, plus there was no cancers, heart disease or auto-immune diseases. A good example of such a people were the Hawaiians who were huge and powerful people (with no cavities) and when Captain Cook made first contact they were very intimidated by these Hawaiians 6 to 7 feet tall. The last Hawaiian queen was 6 ft 10 inches tall (they have her custom made clothes and bed) her grandfather King Kamehameha was 7 feet tall . Bring on a western diet and 120 years later and many of these people are obese. I have a friend who is a doctor in Honolulu and has a twenty something patient who is 600 pounds!

    • Dr. Davis

      Ah, yes, a fellow Weston Price admirer!

      Dr. Price did extraordinary work. Anyone who has not read his book would be astounded at the breadth of his observations going back nearly 100 years.

      • Brian

        About 14 years ago I met the Cook Islands version of Dr. Davis. I was at a busy Saturday morning market hiding out in the shade when I was approached by one of the locals who proceeded to teach me about the 4 white evils that were killing his people. If I remember correctly these evils were milk, sugar, salt and flour. He went on to explain that his people (the Mauri) were dieing because they turned their backs on their traditional foods and offer to teach me how to live a strong and healthy life – regretfully I declined his offer. In the Cook Islands it is their custom to bury their family members in the front yard of their homes. After 2 weeks of walking around Roratonga ( the main Island) I couldn’t help but notice the lifespan here was a brief 50 to 55 years. This made me think that the old guy was speaking some truth. I remember him telling me he was 75 years old and being impressed that he was one strong looking senior. His name is Piri Puruto and google him at Rarotonga-99-Piri Puruto and see what a 75 year old Mauri looks like who refuses to eat a western diet. The pictures arn’t the best but you get the idea!

      • Amanda

        I just learned about Dr. Weston Price, Canadian by the way, after watching “The Oiling of America” by Sally Fallon. I can’t wait to read the book, very expensive but probably a must to read.

      • Phillis

        I can attest to the benefits of getting rid of grains (i.e., wheat specifically) on my teeth. I have horrible teeth and have had since I was little. I got my first tooth pulled when I was 5 and have had many others fail since. I had crooked teeth (since had braces), a narrow palate, impacted wisdom teeth and exceedingly receding gums. My teeth were so out of alignment that I was grinding my teeth constantly and had jaw pain because of it. My teeth were actually loose in their sockets and the gums were spongy. After giving up grains (I actually went on a low-carb diet until I read Wheat Belly and then gave wheat up all together) over 5 years ago my teeth are now no longer loose, the gums do not bleed, and the receding has completely stopped. My dental hygienist is ecstatic as well as my dentist! They cannot figure out how that this has happened. I’ve tried to tell them but they prefer to think that it is because I am being so good at “cleaning” my teeth! Hahahahaha! Little do they know! The only sad part is that I wish that I had known all of this sooner. It would have saved a lot of my teeth. I have a lot of crowns now and have avoided the whole “denture” thing but I if I hadn’t changed the remaining teeth under the crowns would be gone as well but they are doing well too. I plan to keep as many of my teeth as I can and this will do it I believe!

  3. allisonK

    I certainly received a lot of praise on my last dentist visit for flossing so well, My previous visits had always been about how I had to floss more often. I cut out the carbs, and I still hadn’t flossed.

  4. JayR

    Ever stop to think about what is used to make paper mache? One method is to mix flour and water to make the paste. I remember when I used to eat cereal for breakfast, afterwards my back teeth would have that sticky remnant stuck in the chewing surfaces. I now have a lot of fillings in those back teeth.

  5. Wil B

    Congratulations Dr. Davis for continuing to be on the NY Times best seller list re your Wheat Belly book. In that regard, you have even managed to educate Arthur Agatson of South Beach fame. Since most doctors are notoriously resistant to new information not considered to be “mainstream”, that’s a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. :-)

    Even though you are probably already aware of the fact that Dr. Agatson has finally jumped onto your band wagon (as it were), I thought I would copy and paste a snippet from this recent item:

    South Beach Diet’ Doctor Warns About ‘Stealth Disease’
    By CNBC
    “It can really mimic almost any other disease, which is why it’s often been so difficult to diagnose,” said Arthur Agatston, MD, cardiologist and the creator of the “The South Beach Diet.” He was referring to something he calls “the stealth disease” – sensitivity to gluten, a condition which he claims many of us don’t even know we have.
    “We’ve just seen so many dramatic cases of patients who were undiagnosed for years and years,” he said. “Unfortunately, physicians are clueless when it comes to gluten. It’s because a lot of the information is new.”

    Keep up the good work Dr. Davis, and best wishes to you.
    P.S. I think Agatson should have credited you in his piece.

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks, Wil!

      I’m okay with it. After all, the real issue here are the lives transformed by the message, even if it is delivered by somebody besides me.

      We are clearly having an impact: Beyond Dr. Agatston, 50 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list tells me that the message is resonating with many, many people who are experiencing their own form of wheat-free success!

      • One of the things I like most about you, Dr. Davis, is your humbleness. Sounds to me like this guy is riding on your shirttails and doesn’t want to be left behind in the diet dust. While I am encouraged by the media attention to “gluten speak”……he certainly falls short in communicating the bigger, and more important picture.

        Today is one of those days when I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of your discovery and the worldwide implications on human developement…..undoubtedly it ranks right up there with Jonas Sulk and the Nobel Peace prize in medicine but unfortunately the big bad guys would probably work overtime to prevent that from happening.

        Educating our family and friends is hard enough……but you have to wake up each day and educate the world and that has to be downright daunting at times!

        p.s. Look forward to your updated blog…..need some support for employee health incentives.

  6. I have been taking patients off wheat for 20 years. I am so grateful to have such a wonderful tool now to give to people to teach them the dangers of wheat.

    I have a teenage son with celiacs who has been relatively wheat-free for a while. I have been re-inspired to remove the entire family from wheat.

    I personally see more symptoms with corn. I feel it is somewhat the GMO. I see less symptoms with Organic corn.

    I found this short but interesting piece on ancient corn:

    Looks like the ancient corn doesn’t resemble our modern corn at all. And we know most of it is GMO.
    Maybe your next book, Doc? Corn Butt? Corn Cankles? Corn Cellulite? Yuck! LOL!

    I do find it interesting though that I have more symptoms with corn than wheat, and I do not carry much belly fat – more in thighs/rear. Might be interesting to investigate…