How Vitamin D Affects your Body and Dental Health
This past year one of my patients, at our Madison, NJ office, had a small basel cell removed. Being fair she has always tried to protect her skin from the sun. The advice of her surgeon was to stay out of the sun. A recent routine blood test indicated that her Vitamin D level was deficient. It was interesting that all her medical doctors told her to avoid the sun but none, until the blood test, told her about supplementing her Vitamin D intake. As a dentist, we care about our patients overall health as well as their Dental Health.
Vitamin D’s health benefits have been in the news a lot lately. I took the time to understand the effects of Vitamin D on dental health. I want to share some information I have learned with all of my dental patients and more.
Many people understand that Calcium helps build strong bones ands teeth. However, most probably don’t know the relationship Vitamin D has with Calcium and your dental health. So, what does Vitamin D do for the body? Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb the calcium we need for optimal bone and teeth development. Without enough Vitamin D in childhood, bone deformities can develop. If we do not get enough in our adult life it can lead to reduced bone density, osteoporosis & increased risk of bone fractures.
The latest research suggests that Vitamin D plays a role in helping to prevent a variety of health conditions, including multiple sclerosis. It can also reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. So you are probably wondering, what about how it benefits your mouth? The importance of Vitamin D for your teeth is very significant and almost completely overlooked in the medical field. How often have you been told to take Vitamin D for the prevention of periodontal/gum disease and the formation of cavities? Probably not very often. Since we were kids we have heard about the importance of Calcium, but, the relationship of Vitamin D is just as important. For many of our patients, brushing regularly, flossing daily and seeing our dental hygienist twice a year hasn’t always stopped all of periodontal disease. As a dentist this is very discouraging.
When patients suffer from this disease they have a weakening of the bone that anchors teeth into their socket. This leads to redness, bleeding, inflammation (also known as gingivitis), which if untreated can eventually lead to loss of teeth. Vitamin D is also important because it acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is an important stimulator of our immune system. When your immune system health is at its best, you are less likely to get bacterial infections in your gums and elsewhere.
So how does it all work? Calcium is stored in bones and teeth. This stored nutrient is always in a state of movement. When the body needs more Calcium in the bloodstream due to low levels, the body extracts it from its storage in bones and teeth. When there is an abundance of Calcium in the bloodstream, it is put back into bones and teeth, thus making our skeleton very strong and resilient. Vitamin D acts as the regulator of this whole process. When Vitamin D levels are too low, no Calcium is put back into bones and teeth. Then our bones become weakened and susceptible to fractures. Low levels of Vitamin D can be a contributing factor to osteoporosis and periodontal disease.
To sum it up, Calcium and Vitamin D are critical for the general health and strength of bones and teeth. With the avoidance of sun exposure many people are becoming Vitamin D deficient. In the case of my patient, once skin cancer was detected, and the recommendation to stay out of the sun was made, the importance of supplementing Vitamin D was not suggested.
It is very important to make sure we get enough Vitamin D in our diet and from supplements. It is recommended to take 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily for adults and 400 IU for children. Eating foods high in Vitamin D is also helpful. Such foods include milk, yogurt, salmon, orange juice, tuna, eggs, and cheese.