Have you ever wondered why humans are the only animals that brush their teeth? Have you ever pondered why so many ancient skulls seem to have a perfect set of teeth? Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948), who was a prominent dentist in Cleveland at the beginning of the twentieth century, had similar questions, and wanted to know why so many of his patients suffered from tooth decay, crooked teeth, and poorly formed dental arches while indigenous peoples were virtually free of such maladies. In order to investigate this phenomenon, starting in the 1930s Dr. Price set off on a number of expeditions over the course of ten years to study isolated populations all over the globe, in search of the factors that bestowed superb dental health upon these civilizations.
During his travels, Dr. Price visited Gaelic villages in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, communities in the Swiss Alps, pacific islanders in Melanesia and Polynesia, New Zealand Maori, Australian Aborigines, tribes in Africa, and indigenous peoples in North and South America. Amongst all these groups, Dr. Price observed beautiful, straight teeth free from dental cavities; resistance to disease; well-formed physiques; ease of reproduction; freedom from degenerative illnesses; and “fine characters” when the people in these groups were still subsisting on their traditional diets, untouched by the influence of western civilization.
However, when people raised in these indigenous communities left to pursue opportunities in a westernized setting and abandoned their traditional diets, they inevitably developed dental cavities. Furthermore, within one generation, those who switched to a western diet gave birth to children with the same dental palette formation problems that led to tooth crowding and other dental problems that Dr. Price saw in his Cleveland practice.
Dr. Price had nutrient analyses performed on samples of the foods that each of these groups ate, as well as on the foods being grown in America at the time, and found that the foods from the isolated populations he was studying contained four times more water-soluble vitamins and minerals and ten times more fat-soluble vitamins than the foods being grown and consumed by Americans during this period. These findings, combined with the other aforementioned observations, led Dr. Price to hypothesize that nutrient deficiencies, not genetics, were in fact the root cause of dental decay, deformed dental arches that led to crooked teeth, lowered immunity to infectious diseases, and a host of other illnesses.
Dr. Price’s work documenting his findings was compiled into a book entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (which is available for free online in PDF format as it is in the public domain). Within this book can also be found the numerous photographs that Dr. Price took during his travels of the people that he studied to document his findings. In future posts we will explore in-depth the work of Dr. Price.