Karen Kelley RDH
I recently read two articles, the first by Dr. Richard Kim, a dentist who practices in New York City, and the second on the website doctorshealthpress.com. They both have information from a Boston study about the correlation of Vitamin D and Dental health. I was interested to learn that so many people have a deficiency of Vitamin D and how it can affect dental health.
This is a portion of Dr. Kim’s article:
“Medical researchers have long known that Vitamin D has many oral and overall health benefits, but there is growing concern that deficiency of this critical nutrient is more common than once thought. Understanding the benefits of Vitamin D, where it comes from and who is at risk for deficiency could make an important difference in your general and oral health.
Somewhere along the way you can probably remember being told to have plenty of calcium in your diet to build strong bones and teeth. Fortunately calcium is everywhere – readily available in many of the foods we all love like milk, cheese, ice cream and even commercially added to orange juice, breads and cereals. Perhaps you didn’t know that without Vitamin D, the body can’t absorb that calcium… no matter how much of it you swallow!
A diet lacking or low in vitamin D will contribute to a phenomena known as “ burning mouth syndrome”, symptoms of which can include dry mouth, a burning sensation of the tongue and oral tissues and a metallic or bitter taste. The condition is most common in older adults who, coincidentally, are frequently found to have a Vitamin D deficiency! Oral Health scientists have found that in addition to many general health benefits, Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is widely known to have a direct impact on the development and severity of periodontal (gum and bone) disease. As a matter of fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Dentistry (1) among 6700 research participants, those who had the highest blood levels of Vitamin D were about 20% less likely to have gum disease.
Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body when skin is exposed to sunlight, but more often than not people choose to protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen and protective clothing may prevent getting enough vitamin D from the sun; and deficiency is common among people who live in northern latitudes or other areas that receive limited sunlight. Up to 50% of older adults have inadequate Vitamin D levels, perhaps partly due to decreased outdoor activity and sun exposure.
Although it is a rule of thumb that the best source of nutrients is a natural one, Vitamin D supplements are readily available over the counter and routinely recommended to individuals at risk for deficiency. Do you have unexplained body or mouth symptoms? Could you be at risk … or have you been recently diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels? Your doctor and dental professional can advise you about the benefits of a supplement, and a recent discovery of Vitamin D deficiency is a good reason to schedule your regular dental checkup.
1. Journal of Dentistry (2005), 33:703–10.”
From the doctorshealthpress site:
Vitamin D isn’t just for your bones anymore.
This versatile vitamin is now showing promise in the fight against gum disease as well. According to a new study, vitamin D has both anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. (This means that it can reduce inflammation and boost your body’s ability to fight off infections.) It appears that people who have more vitamin D in their bodies run a lower risk of contracting gum disease.
The Boston-based study looked at 6,700 people who had never smoked before. They examined the gums and teeth of these people and compared their vitamin D status to the health and inflammation of their gums. Adjusting for age, previous dental work, dental hygiene, and other factors, it was found that people who had a higher intake of vitamin D also had overall healthier gums.
In fact, those who had the highest levels of the vitamin in their body reduced their risk of bleeding during oral examination by 20% when compared to patients who had the lowest intake of vitamin D.
So, if you thought this power-packed vitamin was only good for helping your bones, you were wrong. The evidence speaks for itself — vitamin D plays a double role. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and it may just help you walk out of your next dental appointment with less pain and bleeding.
So ensure that you allow your body to produce enough vitamin D. It’s a good reason to get just a few minutes of sun at least three times a week. Make sure you don’t overdo it, unless you are wearing sunscreen. If you can’t get outside, at least try taking a supplement in order to help you get all you need of this wonderful nutrient.
After reading these articles, I started doing some of my own ‘research’. I began asking my patients who generally had good overall brushing and flossing habits, not stellar, but good, who’s gums generally looked healthy, but when I was scaling (cleaning) their teeth, they bled more than they should if their gums were truly healthy. (Healthy gums shouldn’t bleed!) Most of the patients that I asked told me they had been diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels! This was very interesting to me. I did some other reading about Vitamin D deficiency and found how common it is. It’s interesting to me that anyone living in the “Valley of the Sun” could be deficient in Vitamin D, but it actually is common.
I also found this article on Web MD entitled:
Keep That Smile! Calcium and Vitamin D Prevent Tooth Loss
“If you’re supplementing your diet with calcium and vitamin D to prevent bone loss, you may be more likely to hang onto your pearly whites, according to a report at this week’s meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Toronto. Even so, older adults need to floss their teeth and see the dentist regularly because with increased age come increased risks for losing teeth.
“Studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D decrease bone loss in the hip and forearm, but we weren’t sure if they had an effect on tooth loss,” says lead author Elizabeth Krall, MPH, PhD, a researcher at Boston University Dental School and Tufts University Nutrition Research Center. “Now we know that supplementation may also improve tooth retention, along with routine dental care and good oral hygiene,” she tells WebMD. To explore the role of supplementation on tooth retention, the researchers followed more than 140 older adults for five years. Participants took either a placebo or 500 mg of calcium plus 700 units of vitamin D daily for three years. Both during and after the trial, their teeth were examined periodically. For those who took supplements, the likelihood of losing one or more teeth was 40% less, even two years later.” ( http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20000927/keep-that-smile-calcium vitamin-d-prevent-tooth-loss)
Anything that gives our patients a 40% less chance of losing a tooth and 20% less gums disease and bleeding during their dental visits is certainly worth looking into further. If a person is low in Vitamin D, it is an easy thing to implement a supplement or sun into a daily routine. The National Institute of Health recommends 10 to 15 minutes of outdoor activity two times a week to get enough Vitamin D. They also suggest for areas where they don’t have as much sun as we do, that vitamin D can be received by consuming milk, eggs, and fish. The Vitamin Council gives further instructions to individuals with periodontal (gum) disease. The Council says for someone with gum disease they may want to consider taking measures to raise their vitamin D blood levels to 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L). They also suggest moderate UVB exposure (without sunburn) but additionally recommend oral intake of vitamin D and calcium supplements.
If you’re over 50 and have some symptoms of gum disease, ask your MD what your Vitamin D levels are now (they can do a simple blood test) and what you should be doing to raise your Vitamin D to an acceptable level.
Keep smiling, Karen Kelley R.D.H.