Whole milk has long been publicized as the most efficient way to get vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can put you at risk for many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease. Even recent research indicates that vitamin D deficiency may also be a risk factor for periodontal disease in adults and cavities in young children. So who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency and what can you do to avoid it for overall healthy bones, teeth and gums?
So What Does Vitamin D have to do with Gum Disease and Cavities?
Studies on Vitamin D indicate that it has the potential to reduce the severity and risk of gum disease by producing compounds ( defensins and cathelicidin) that have antimicrobial properties which reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. It can also reduce the enzymes directly associated with gum disease. While increasing your intake of Vitamin D won’t heal your gums, it can certainly slow its progression.
In another study, Vitamin D was shown to alter gum inflammation and have direct antimicrobial effects on gum disease. Subjects in this study who received a periodontal disease therapy, which included both calcium and Vitamin D, revealed improved gum health.
A tooth decay study published in the Journal of Dental Research, and conducted by a team of Canadian researchers discovered low levels of Vitamin D as a possible factor in tooth decay in young children. The team analyzed the data from 1017 children between the ages of 6 and 11 years of age. The analysis included lab results, interviews, physical assessments and measurements of Vitamin D3 using serum samples.
What the researchers found was that over half the children with dental cavities showed a direct relationship between their tooth decay and their levels of vitamin D, which was less than 75nmol/L an optimal level. Researchers concluded that improving vitamin D levels could possibly be seen as a preventative treatment for dental caries in young children.
Obviously, these studies indicate the Vitamin D cannot directly cure cavities or gum disease, but it does create the possibility that vitamin D may be effective in stopping the advancement of gum disease, and may even be used as a preventative treatment for dental caries in children.
Who is at Risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
According to the National Institutes of Health, because Vitamin D is difficult to obtain through natural food sources, certain groups of people are at a higher risk for Vitamin D deficiency than others. Among the many at risk include:
• People who avoid the sun or live in colder climates.
• People with dark skin. High melanin pigment levels decreases the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight.
• Aging Adults. Older adults have difficulty synthesizing vitamin D as effectively.
• Breastfed babies. But there is an exception, if a breastfeeding Mom supplements their vitamin D doses, they will have higher levels of the nutrient in their systems.
• People with chronic conditions like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
• People who are obese or have a body mass index of 30 or greater. The larger the body mass index (BMI); the more the human body isolates the nutrient and has difficulty releasing it.
What Natural Food Sources have Vitamin D?
Unfortunately, the one major source is the sun. However, sunscreen can play a role in how much vitamin D your body actually synthesizes from being outdoors during the day. Of course, you should never stop the use of sunscreen; without it you increase your risk for skin cancer. Some foods that have vitamin D naturally include swordfish, sockeye salmon, sardines and cod liver oil. Increasingly more foods are becoming fortified with vitamin D including whole milk, soy milk, yogurt and orange juice. To check the amount of vitamin D per serving, always look at the labels for the correct daily value.
Isn’t Calcium More Important than Vitamin D for Strong Bones and Teeth?
Actually, both vitamin D and calcium play an essential role in healthy bones. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, vitamin D is required for calcium absorption and bone protection. Not getting enough Vitamin D puts you at risk for tooth and bone loss, brittle bones and lower bone density as you age.
While more studies are needed to further establish the association between vitamin D and improved oral and dental health, you can take steps right now by having your vitamin D levels checked with your physician before taking additional supplements. Be sure to talk about your current prescriptions and any over-the-counter supplements or medications that you’re taking.
One thing is for certain stronger bones means healthier teeth and a beautiful smile. Many more dental treatments are available to you when you can begin it with a strong foundation. Dental treatments like implants, which are titanium screws surgically inserted into the jawbone, benefit from calcium and vitamin D. If the jawbone is too brittle or weak, the dental implant could fail. Once the implant is inserted into strong and healthy bone, it can adequately support any prosthesis like a crown, dentures and even bridges.
Our dentists can help advise you on the best nutrition for optimal dental health. You won’t know until you ask, and when you do our team can help steer you in the right direction. In our opinion, it’s never too late to begin receiving the best dental care that can give you a lifetime of healthy smiles.