The growing interest in oral/systemic links demand new paradigms to understand disease processes. New opportunities for dental research, particularly in the fields of neuroscience and endocrinology will emerge. The role of the hypothalamus portion of the brain cannot be underestimated. Under the influence of nutrition, it plays a significant role in the systemic model of dental caries. Currently, the traditional theory of dental caries considers only the oral environment and does not recognize any significant role for the brain. The healthy tooth, however, has a centrifugal fluid flow to nourish and cleanse it. This is moderated by the hypothalamus/parotid axis which signals the endocrine portion of the parotid glands. High sugar intake creates an increase in reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress in the hypothalamus. When this signaling mechanism halts or reverses the dentinal fluid flow, it renders the tooth vulnerable to oral bacteria, which can now attach to the tooth's surface. Acid produced by oral bacteria such as Strep Mutans and lactobacillus can now de-mineralize the enamel and irritate the dentin. The acid attack stimulates an inflammatory response which results in dentin breakdown from the body's own matrix metalloproteinases. Vitamin K2 (K2) has been shown to have an antioxidant potential in the brain and may prove to be a potent way to preserve the endocrine controlled centrifugal dentinal fluid flow. Stress, including oxidative stress, magnifies the body's inflammatory response. Sugar can not only increase oral bacterial acid production but it can concurrently reduce the tooth's defenses through endocrine signaling. Saliva production is the exocrine function of the salivary glands. The buffering capacity of saliva is critical to neutralizing the oral environment. This minimizes the de-mineralization of enamel and enhances its re-mineralization. K2, such as that found in fermented cheese, improves salivary buffering through its influence on calcium and inorganic phosphates secreted. Data collected from several selected primitive cultures on the cusp of civilization demonstrated the difference in dental health due to diet. The primitive diet group had few carious lesions compared to the group which consumed a civilized diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. The primitives were able to include the fat soluble vitamins, specifically K2, in their diet. More endocrine and neuroscience research is necessary to better understand how nutrition influences the tooth's defenses through the hypothalamus/parotid axis. It will also link dental caries to other inflammation related degenerative diseases such as diabetes.
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