That’s a mouthful!

This is the skull of a specimen of Homo sapiens recovered from the Fertile Crescent, specifically Qafzeh, Israel, and dated to around 100,000 years ago (photographed through glass, on display at London’s Natural History Museum). We don’t know the age of the specimen at time of death, but it is clearly adult.

Note the full mouth of teeth, intact and apparently without decay. This is typical of specimens recovered prior to the incorporation of grains into the human diet: perfect teeth without decay, without abscess, without tooth loss, and without tooth crowding that we see so often today. Substantial tooth loss in primitive life was potentially life threatening, as eating the coarse foods of the age required effective mastication.




This is another photo from the same collection, this one a Neandertal from Kebara, Israel, dated to 60,000 years ago (approximately 30,000 years prior to their extinction). Note once again the full mouth of teeth without apparent decay or crowding. Although we are not descended from Neandertals, Homo sapiens are extremely close relatives, genetically close enough to allow crossbreeding. As with Homo sapiens specimens, tooth decay in Neandertal specimens are uncommon.

What makes this so fascinating is that neither Homo sapiens nor Neandertals had toothbrushes, toothpaste, fluoridated water, dental floss, dentists, or orthodontists, yet less than 1% of teeth recovered show evidence of decay. That all changed with the incorporation of grains–einkorn and emmer wheat in the Fertile Crescent, maize and teosinte in the Americas, sorghum and millet in sub-Saharan Africa: explosive tooth decay appeared, typically affecting 16-49% of all teeth recovered (varying depending on location and age). The Egyptians, among the earliest of civlizations of Homo sapiens, famous for their wheat, barley, and corn consuming ways, were the first to have dentists, some of whom developed techniques to drill into the mouth to remove cavities.

There’s more to health than dental health. But it is one powerful line of evidence suggesting that grains are not, nor never were, appropriate for human consumption. When we do consume them, we pay a substantial health price in the teeth and elsewhere. The evidence is pretty bad for grains in general, now exaggerated by the manipulations of geneticists to create modern high-yield, semi-dwarf wheat.

Wheat and grains are maladaptive. The seeds of grasses, i.e., all grains consumed by unwitting humans, are the food of the desperate or the ignorant.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Dana

    Eventually we figured out that using dairy along with grains mitigated some of the damage, a finding still utilized by traditional people Dr. Weston Price examined in the 1920s when he went to Switzerland. Seafood was apparently protective too (as Price found in Ireland). But if you look at his dental caries numbers, the traditional people with the greatest number of cavities were the ones eating grains. They still had great teeth compared to those of their ethnicity who were eating industrial food, but there was room for improvement.

    I like to read up on this stuff and it seems there’s something to the idea that there is “fluid circulation” in the dentin of our teeth; this fluid circulation is governed by the saliva glands in our cheeks (parotid), which are also hormone-producing glands. John Leonora did some work on this. He said that sucrose suppressed parotid hormone production, therefore reduced dentin fluid circulation and the production of dentin in the teeth, and that the parotid glands influenced insulin secretion as well. I’m not seeing where he might have thought insulin influenced the parotid glands in turn but I don’t see why it wouldn’t. If parotid hormone causes insulin to be secreted, might not a high level of insulin slow down parotid secretion? The parotid glands might have, in a sense, “noticed” the higher insulin levels and “said” to themselves, “Yep, job’s done,” and leveled down. With a concurrent bad effect on the teeth.

    So sucrose might not be the only problem there. Grain might affect all that too.

    Then there’s the way grain takes away from mineral absorption. WAPF talks about that too–that because they’re seeds, grains need to protect themselves from being eaten, and we’re not adapted to get around those protections. Traditional peoples hit upon methods of fermenting grain that coincidentally made it safer to eat, explaining the lower dental caries rate to some extent, but the grain was not made completely safe because they were still losing more teeth than evolutionarily normal. Then “city people” dropped the traditional methods and were left sitting ducks for all of grain’s worst health effects. :(

    • Dr. Davis

      Great insights, Dana. Thanks for weighing in!

      Yes, anyone wishing to hear an incredible chronicle of dental health experiences should make Dr. Weston Price’s book a must read.

  2. AllisonK

    I can certainly say my n=1 is better teeth, Less teeth pain, cleaner, smoother teeth. I used to have to scrub like crazy to get them clean, and that caused gum issues, and now just a quick brush and they’re good.

    • Mary D

      I’ve noticed the same thing – the more consistently I stay away from grains, the fewer problems I have when it comes time to have my teeth cleaned: less build-up, smaller pockets (I’ve got periodontal disease), and less bleeding.
      Enter wheat, specifically – and bingo! – gum issues. Like clockwork.

      • James

        I’ve been wheat-free for over two months and have noticed whiter teeth, which I first thought was maybe my imagination. Now it makes sense.

  3. sheri puckette

    I wonder if the use of stones for grinding the early wheats/barleys and the resulting stone dust in the flours contributed to tooth decay. it certainly wore down teeth in some ancient civilizations that ground grains.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, indeed. And they also added sand to their grains to facilitate grinding, resulting in commonly chipped teeth in Egyptian specimens.

  4. Tracey

    I’ve noticed smoother, cleaner, and even whiter teeth too. Curious if my dentist will notice.

  5. My dental health improved dramatically on a LC, wheat-free diet. I did some tweaking to make it even better, and I’ve had no new cavities or decay, whiter teeth, and no sensitivity.

    • I had periodontal surgery a decade or so ago, which I now consider to have been unnecessary, had I known about grains then. I get quarterly teeth cleaning, and the dentist was telling me up to 2 years ago, that I could expect to need another round of PD surgery real soon now.

      2 years ago, I quit grains and went low carb. The dental situation has entirely stabilized (but seems unlikely to reverse, surgery being what it is).

      The dentist finally upgraded to digital xray this year (1/5 the dose, yay), took images at the last visit, and was showing me a spot of bone loss, which hasn’t changed in 2 years, in a “we’ll need to keep an eye on this” kind of way.

      Curiosity from either dentist or tech about why the PD is arrested?

      • My oral surgeon was greatly interested in diet and even bought The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain. (I needed a surgeon because I broke a tooth in an accident.) He was surprised that I took two shots in the gums without flinching, and that my broken tooth didn’t hurt. I’m surprised that more dentists aren’t on board with low carb and grain-free diets–unless they want more business.

        • > My oral surgeon.. (I needed a surgeon because I broke a tooth …

          That’s an oral specialty that will be less affected by cultural diet shift.

          > I’m surprised that more dentists aren’t on board with low carb
          > and grain-free diets–unless they want more business.

          Same metabolic blindness as other medical specialties:
          What’s Up With My Doctor?
          and with less excuse in the case of dentists, because they KNOW that at least one food item (sugar) can cause what they commonly treat.

          They may, subconsciously, not be all that anxious to learn the full list, because their business will largely dry up if their client base goes low carb grain free.

      • Neicee

        Boundless, your story is the same as mine. Started showing signs of PD while still in high school. Finally had surgery in Dallas, TX – the perio my daughter worked for. My hometown dentist is one of the best in town. Not once did the oral surgeon, perio, or dentist ever question why teeth would loosen (then strangely tighten up) or why I constantly fought a tad bit of bleeding in the gums during cleaning. After the surgery I get the teeth cleaned 4 times a year. I used to tease my dentist that osteoporosis starts in the mouth. After biting into a huge burger I heard a pop and later diagnosed with TMJ. Finally, while trying to find out why my calcium level was so high in a blood test last year they first told me I had hyperparathyroidism and would need surgery immediately. Then blood tests came back normal and they say now I have severe osteoporosis. I’ve pretty much taken myself out of their care and doing the high Vit D3, magnesium, and a slew of other vitamins to see what that does for the bone density. They only want to talk about the current drugs for osteoporosis on the market…..that I absolutely must take! If they were so good why did they misdiagnose me for 4 months? The only sane one I saw was the surgeon and he flat out refused to do the parathyroid surgery. So if any of you experience longterm problems with your teeth and perio treatment, do get a blood calcium test – you just might save yourself from osteoporosis. Oh, and the dental hygienist says there’s nothing to clean like plaque anymore and the teeth are stabilizing. Silence from the dentist.

  6. Miriam

    Plaque appears on my teeth almost instantly if I eat grains.

    My favorite toothbrush is the 30 second smile battery operated. Unfortunately I cannot put it away with the base down because water flows down into the battery chamber. So I store it upside down. Other than that issue this is an awesome toothbrush. It brushes both sides at once and you will not believe how weak your gums are when you first start using it. Even if (like me) you have been very careful about brushing and cleaning between your teeth.

    I don’t use floss, instead I use brushes for between teeth cleaning. They work much better for me.

  7. I am off of wheat for 3 days now and I cannot believe the difference in my energy and focus. Just 3 days…amazing. I have tried the shirataki noodles and like them but they are not pasta. Am I going to experience the tiredness and fogginess if I occasionally have pasta made with emmer wheat??? My fear is that will hook me on wheat again, not that after 3 days I am “un-hooked”. There is no question in my mind at all that much of what I have been eating is addictive.

  8. jamie

    dear Niecee,

    I’m on the National Osteoporosis Foundation website lots and your Hyper parathyroidism problem (high calcium numbers) are worth looking into.

    Without being a doomsdayer, get this checked out and use the website There is never an okay high reading of Calcium. It always needs to be dealt with. Very easy with the latest techniques and hugely beneficial. Don’t wait it out. The numbers are 100% indicative of problems.

    Please read the website and figure out what you need to do.

    Take care!


    Residents in jails and psych units often get a white bread sandwich if they refuse the main dish. Processed cheese or peanut butter are the usual fillers. Horrible tooth and gum disease with halitosis, is common particularly among psychotic patients and has been attributed to the patients inability to care for themselves. Residents in nursing homes may get more options but still there is a preponderance of bread and cereals. This last group often gets special “treats” like cakes – and puddings that come from packages. Psychotic outbursts are usually worse for diabetics.

    • Neicee

      Lillian, you are spot so right. My 93 yr. old MIL is in a nursing home with hospice care. She has dementia and breast cancer. Breakfast is usually cereal/juice/toast. Lunch is a peanut butter/jelly sandwich with more sugary drinks, and dessert….. Dinner is some type of noodle casserole, with jello salad, rolls, and more dessert. They claim they have to provide that type of diet because of most residents poor teeth and some swallowing problems. I leave there wanting to scream. With all the recent data on sugar and the diseases it feeds I can’t believe they couldn’t provide better meals.