An easy step toward stopping tooth decay
Are you ready for a simple oral health ‘hack’ that can really speed up your ability to stop tooth decay and reverse any existing cavities?
Sometimes the path to optimal oral health has some tough lessons. (Ok, honestly, cutting out sugar is rough.) However, thankfully, we do find easy-to-incorporate gems to share with you, too!
We recently published an expert interview on the importance of vitamin K2 titled, “Is this the missing nutrient keeping you from living a cavity free life?”.
Now that we have published this interview, we’re excited to share with you what we consider to be one of the easiest ‘quick fixes’ to help you stop tooth decay in your home.
Setting the historical baseline
Dr Weston Price found from his studies of indigenous peoples in the 1930s that on average, they ate 4 times the minerals and 10 times the fat soluble vitamins as Americans in the 1930s.
We have focused on the importance of minerals in past articles like, ‘Why teeth decay (and how to stop it)’ and ‘What TO eat to support greater oral health’ and more recently with ‘How to reverse tooth decay with diet‘.
However, today we want to focus on the fat soluble mineral factor, and in particular, why we consider vitamin K2 to be a super simple piece to the puzzle of how to stop (and even reverse) tooth decay.
In his research, Dr Price identified a certain vitamin that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He knew that peoples who had sufficient amounts of this vitamin in their diets had amazing dental health and that this vitamin interacted with known vitamins A and D to create even greater oral health (and whole being wellness).
Finally, letting go of trying to find out which vitamin it was, Dr Price resigned to calling this mystery cure ‘Activator X’.
We now know from the work of many researchers that ‘Activator X’ is vitamin K2.
In the spirit of brevity, we’re going to bypass a deep dive on the historical details of this fascinating subject. Let’s jump right in to how vitamin K2 helps.
How common is K2 deficiency?
It depends who you ask. Many prestigious organizations claim that vitamin K deficiency is fairly uncommon. Other experts who have studied vitamin K2 specifically say that K2 deficiency is very common. Given that tooth decay is rampant world wide, we find it safe to assume that most of us severely lack this essential nutrient.
Here are a couple questions to help you determine where you are with vitamin K2 levels.
Do you get cavities? Are you consuming WAY more fat soluble vitamins than everyone around you? (Remember Weston Price found indigenous peoples ate 10x the fats than Americans!)
K2 gives calcium the ‘intelligence’ to go where it’s needed
Research is still being done to get a better grasp of the many functions vitamin K2 plays in our bodies. However, two main functions have been clearly identified.
Sufficient K2 helps calcium support bone tissue that needs repair.
This is how we’ve come to understand how K2 helps us stop and even reverse tooth decay.
Calcium is absorbed from food we eat. Once in the body, it doesn’t naturally know where to go to help. However, vitamin K2 ‘activates’ a protein called osteocalcin, which is responsible for repairing bone tissue (that’s teeth, too) with calcium in the system.
Yep, it’s true that vitamin K2 helps even better when it’s in combination with vitamin D3. After all, one of the many functions D3 offers us is to increase calcium absorption from our gut.
But the super cool fact to us is vitamin K2 not only helps put calcium where it’s needed, it helps remove calcium from where it causes damage.
Sufficient K2 removes calcium from soft tissues.
Like we said, once calcium is in the body, it doesn’t magically go to where it’s needed (unless you have enough K2 in your diet). In fact, calcium deposits in soft tissues is a major factor in heart disease, osteoarthritis, and kidney issues.
You see, vitamin K2 ‘activates’ a protein called Matrix GLA protein, which goes through the body and picks up calcium from soft tissues where it doesn’t belong, like in our arteries (which is a major factor in heart attacks).
Where do we find K2 in foods?
In order to dive into what foods are rich in K2, we need to unpack vitamin K2 a little more.
There are several different types of vitamin K2. More accurately, there are several different ‘lengths’ of the compound. Each type of K2 is designated with its length in the name. The two most well studied types/lengths are MK-4 and MK-7.
(For those of you who really want to know, the M in MK stands for menaquinone which is the ‘official’ name for K2. The M differentiates these compounds from a sister compound, vitamin K1, which is phylloquinone. The number after MK shows the different ‘lengths’ of the slightly varying compounds.)
Both MK-4 and MK-7 forms of K2 give calcium the intelligence of where to go in our bodies.
Main food sources of MK-4
The only known food sources of MK-4 vitamin K2 are from animal products. As it’s a fat soluble vitamin, it’s found in the fats from quality animal products. But quality plays a big role. For example, an egg yolk from a healthy chicken with access to plenty of green grass yields 4-5x the amount of vitamin K2 compared to a factory farmed chicken egg.
An excellent source of MK-4 vitamin K2 is goose liver. Hmm, not so sure about goose liver? Read on. ?
Good sources of MK-4 are pastured egg yolks, butter/ghee from cows on pasture, fish eggs, even organ meats from grazing animals. (Incidentally, indigenous peoples praised the termite for quality nutrition. Not surprising, termites are very high in K2!)
Main food sources of MK-7
So, MK-4 vitamin K2 comes from animal products. However, MK-7 vitamin K2 is produced by certain bacterial strains. This is very good news for those of you who choose to not consume animal products, as you can still get plenty of vitamin K2 in your diet!
The best source of MK-7 vitamin K2 is a Japanese fermented soy product called natto. Other more common foods higher in MK-7 are aged cheeses (particularly gouda, brie, and even some quality cheddar cheese).
If you eat cheese, why not find a quality cheese made from milk from cows who graze green pastures regularly? This way, you can get both MK-4 and MK-7 in one meal!
So, how much K2 do we need?
The truth is, we really don’t know. There is no ‘right amount’ for K2 for everyone.
We consider trying to find the ‘right amount for everyone’ to be really going down the wrong path. Our bodies are changing all the time, so we have to be adaptive to the demands of the changing times.
For example, Dr Linus Pauling, the person credited with the discovery of vitamin C, took around 12 grams (12000 mg) of the vitamin daily. His peers all laughed at Dr Pauling because science had already established a lower recommended daily allowance for vitamin C. Dr Pauling lived decades longer and in better health than his nay-sayer peers.
Just like our needs for vitamin C change based on many factors, our needs for K2 can also vary.
Here’s a very ‘non scientific’ way to help determine your own needs for K2.
Dr Weston Price identified that when a person had sufficient amount of ‘Activator X’ (vitamin K2), the amount of dental plaque he found in their mouth reduced dramatically.
Interestingly, one of the areas of highest concentrations of vitamin K2 is in saliva. This makes complete sense if we consider the tooth decay remineralization ability K2 offers.
So, here’s how we navigate this.
Feel around your teeth. Notice certain places where plaque accumulates. Just notice the quantity for a few days before you start increasing your K2. Make a quick note on a calendar when you start increasing your K2 intake. (Our OraWellness Mouth Map is a great place to take down these notes!!)
Start with a moderate amount of K2 increase and check your plaque status in 2-3 weeks, at which time you could adjust the amount up or down depending on what you find. (We’ve also noticed an increased feeling of softness in our joints when K2 levels are higher. This makes sense given that K2 is helping draw calcium out of where it’s not supposed to be.)
Supplementing vitamin K2
In this day and age, we’ve found it pretty hard to get sufficient amounts of K2 from diet alone. (Keep in mind, we have chickens and cows that are on green grass all year long.)
There are a couple factors that will vary depending on which type of K2 you choose.
First, how long does the K2 last in the body…
The half-life of vitamin K2 varies depending on whether you choose the MK-4 or MK-7 type.
MK-4 (derived from animal products, like egg yolks, fish eggs, etc.) needs to be consumed (or supplemented) 2-3 times each day. It’s half life is much shorter, so it needs to be taken more frequently.
MK-7 (derived from bacterial fermentation and present in natto and some cheeses) can be supplemented once daily, as it’s half-life is longer.
The second difference is the quantity necessary to make positive change.
With MK-4, most studies reference 45mg, 2-3 times daily.
However, with MK-7, the reference range is 100-360mcg (micrograms), once daily.
Warning about supplementing vitamin D without K2
According to Dr Kate Rheaume-Bleue, the expert we recently interviewed and author of the excellent book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox, we must be really careful supplementing vitamin D without K2. Doing so can actually cause an even greater functional deficiency of vitamin K2, as the vitamin D uses whatever K2 is in the body.
The problem with most commercial D3/K2 supplements is there is no ‘universal right amount’ of vitamin D for everyone. So, commercial supplement producers are taking their best guess at a good amount of K2 to have with the vitamin D.
The D3/K2 combinations we’ve researched don’t have enough K2 in them (for our preference).
How our family ‘does’ vitamin K2
First off, we eat a lot of quality dietary fats in the form of butter from pastured cattle, eggs from pastured chickens, among other sources.
That said, we still like to supplement K2 just to make sure we are getting enough on a daily basis.
Because of the difference in the amount needed to take to reach health-giving amounts , we prefer the Mk7 form of vitamin K2. And, ideally, we supplement twice daily with a meal (K2 is a fat soluble vitamin so is better absorbed when taken with some fats).
The amount we take varies with how we are feeling. But ideally we look to achieve around 300 micrograms daily. Research suggests that the health benefits of K2 supplementation increase with an increase in quantity, then plateau around 320 mcg daily.
(PS, If you’d like to hear our thoughts on which K2 supplements we prefer and why, please leave a comment below saying so and we will write a review of various K2 supplements on the market like our analysis of the best flosses on the market.)
In closing, we have found great benefit to our oral health (and whole body wellness) from increasing our awareness of and consumption of vitamin K2. We hope this helps your family along your path to living a cavity free life.
Also, if you know someone who has children at home that are dealing with lots of decay, please help us reach them by sharing this article.
Thank you for helping us help others!!
Helpful, Related Resources:
Is this the missing nutrient keeping you from living a cavity free life? [expert interview]
How to reverse tooth decay with diet [article]
Why teeth decay (and how to stop it) [article]
OraWellness Mouth Map [free download resource]