Vitamin D And The Health Of Your Teeth
Many people are aware of how a lack of vitamin D can lead to weakened bones and diseases such as rickets, but did you know that this essential nutrient also plays an important role in maintaining the health of your teeth? The truth is that proper oral hygiene needs to involve more than just brushing and flossing regularly and cutting out sugary foods. The adequate intake of vitamin D is also critical to a bright, cavity-free smile.
For families and individuals in the Nashville area, it’s important to be fully educated on the need for proper nutrition in relation to dental health. Yes, of course it’s necessary to avoid foods that can lead to infections, such as soft drinks, candy, and the like. But your teeth need a full range of vitamins and nutrients, just like the rest of your body. Each of these nutrients fulfills a different need of your body, some of which are more directly tied to your teeth and gums than others.
The bottom line is that vitamin D is essential to a healthy mouth and teeth, and it’s imperative that you are getting enough on a daily basis.
What is Vitamin D?
Even though we’ve all likely heard of vitamin D, most people actually know very little about it. The technical definition of vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids, which are biologically active organic compounds, that are necessary for the proper functioning of human physiology. Another name for vitamin D3, one of the the most important nutrients to human health, is cholecalciferol, while vitamin D2 is also known as ergocalciferol.
In most cases, when vitamin D is taken into the body, it is in an inert form that can’t be processed without first undergoing two separate hydroxylations prior to activation. The first of these processes occurs in the liver, when vitamin D is converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also known as calcidiol. Next, it must then be transported to the kidneys, where it is transformed into the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D, also called calcitriol.
What role does Vitamin D play in maintaining a healthy mouth?
Obviously it’s important to keep your teeth clean and polished, helping to avoid cavities and gum infections. But this does not mean we can overlook the importance of proper nutrition, including the adequate intake of vitamin D, in maintaining healthy teeth. In fact, some people and cultures that do not regularly practice oral hygiene still manage to avoid cavities and tooth decay, thanks in large part to healthy amounts of vitamin D.
The main reason that vitamin D is so important is that it is what allows the body to absorb calcium from the food you eat. So while vitamin D does not directly strengthen your teeth, it allows the body to maintain the enamel that protects our teeth via calcium. It also fuels the guardian cells that exist in the layer of dentin that sits just below the enamel. These cells are able to repair damaged dentin in your teeth as long as there is enough vitamin D present.
Vitamin D also is involved with regulating the human immune system. Gingivitis, also known as gum disease, is the result of inflammation, and is often a sign that the body’s immune system is out of whack. One frequent cause of this inflammation is a vitamin D deficiency.
Finally, kids are especially susceptible to tooth decay when they aren’t getting enough vitamin D in their diet. It’s extremely important to make sure your children are getting enough of this critical nutrient.
What are some other reasons that Vitamin D is important?
Of course, vitamin D does more than just keep your teeth healthy. It enables your bones to stay strong through a process known as mineralization, which relies on adequate calcium, and therefore vitamin D, to be present in the body. Vitamin D also promotes bone growth and strengthening in children and young adults. In older people especially, a deficiency of vitamin D will lead to bones that are thin, brittle, and even misshapen.
Vitamin D protects against rickets and osteomalacia, two deteriorating conditions. It also helps prevent osteoporosis. It promotes healthy cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism. Finally, the proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis need to have enough vitamin D for proper functioning.
What are the main sources of Vitamin D?
Unfortunately, as important as vitamin D is to our health, it actually occurs naturally in only a few food sources. Other than beef liver, many kinds of fish, and cooked egg yolks, it is actually quite difficult to find in food. The one exception is certain kinds of mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light.
In fact, most of our natural intake of vitamin D occurs through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D3 is produced photochemically in the human body by reacting to UVB light at wavelengths of 290–315 nm. Moderate exposure to sunlight on a weekly basis, ranging from 5-30 minutes per day, will be enough to create the necessary vitamin D. It should be noted that the darker your skin, the longer it needs to be exposed to sunlight to get enough vitamin D.
Additionally, in the United States, milk, both from animal and vegetable sources, and other foods are typically fortified with vitamin D, helping to ensure that we are getting the vitamin D we need to be healthy.
If you haven’t already, be sure to talk to your dentist about your dietary habits. You’ll want to discuss more than just what foods to avoid, but also what nutrients are necessary for proper dental health.
Your Nashville, Tennessee Dental Health Specialists
Having healthy teeth is an important part of a person’s overall well being. And that means understanding the critical role that nutrition and vitamins play in keeping you and your family smiling. The entire staff at Jody Jones, DDS, makes the long-term health and well being of our Nashville patients our number one priority. We always emphasize the need for proper preventative care to avoid serious problems down the road.
To schedule an appointment and get started down the path to dental wellness, contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable dental technicians today.