VITAMIN D: THE ABC OF A HEALTHY MOUTHDecember 6, 2010
Your mother probably told you when you were growing up that milk and cheese, full of calcium, would make you grow up strong and tall. And that sunlight, which helps your body to produce Vitamin D to help you absorb the calcium, would make you even taller and stronger. Your mother was right!
But what if you don’t get enough sunlight to complete this essential process? Then think about your diet: you can use milk fortified with Vitamin D and be sure to include those foods which provide it as well–eggs and organ meats, and fish (especially salmon, sardines, and herring)–even rhubarb. And if you’re still not sure that diet and sunlight alone are providing you with what you need, consider Vitamin D supplements. Some interesting new studies have confirmed its importance to the health of your body, and especially to your mouth.
It’s easy to understand that a vitamin that helps strengthen your bones would also strengthen your teeth. Yet vitamin D includes another surprising benefit for your mouth: it stimulates the production of natural antibiotics–antimicrobial peptides–which bacteria and viruses have a hard time developing resistance to. Because periodontal disease is essentially an immune response to bacteria that live in the mouth, a vitamin that stimulates natural antibiotics can help prevent or control it.
In one study published earlier this year, patients who received regular dental maintenance (scaling, root planing, polishing) and who were encouraged to practice daily brushing and flossing were divided into two groups. One group received Vitamin D and calcium supplements, and one group did not. While both groups benefited from the regular care, the supplement-takers had better periodontal health.
It is not surprising that pregnant women (who require higher levels of calcium and vitamin D) have higher levels of periodontal disease, where it has been associated with adverse outcomes such as preterm birth, preeclampsia and late miscarriage. While researchers are still studying the link between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes, they have noted from current studies that vitamin D is “a potential intervention to improve oral health among a vulnerable group of pregnant women,” and therefore concluded that vitamin D supplements, with their antibacterial and antiviral powers, could contribute to maternal oral health.
So keep what your mother told you in mind; make sure your diet provides you with the calcium and vitamin D you need, and consult your dentist about the benefits of taking supplements in the dosage best for you.