Why Vitamin D is Important to Healthy Teeth

| September 9, 2014

Fruits and vegetables

You probably know that vitamin D helps to build strong teeth and bones. But did you know it may also help prevent tooth decay and gum disease?

Building Strong Teeth and Bones

Vitamin D encourages calcium absorption and helps keep the right levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood stream to maintain bone and tooth density. For good oral health, you need to consume adequate amounts of both vitamin D and calcium.

Preventing Dental Cavities

As reported by the Vitamin D Council, several studies have associated higher levels of vitamin D with reductions in dental cavities. Vitamin D helps your body produce proteins such as cathelicidin and defensins. These proteins fight bacteria that cause cavities.

Promoting Healthy Gums

Research published in the March 2009 Journal of Oral Science showed that Vitamin D promotes gum health by supporting the immune system and decreasing inflammation – two key strategies for combatting gum disease as well as other inflammatory diseases.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

According to the Food and Nutrition Board, most people need 600 International Units per day for general bone and oral health. Infants under one year need only 400 IU, while adults 71 years and older need 800 IU.

Keep in mind that too much vitamin D can be toxic. The upper limit is 1,000 to 1,500 IU/day for infants, 2,500 to 3,000 IU/day for children one to eight years, and 4,000 IU/day for children nine years and older and adults.

How Can I Get Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because your body can make its own supply via skin exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays. During the summer, you can get all the vitamin D you need from sun exposure – even in northern cities like Columbus, Ohio. If you’re fair skinned, going outside without sunscreen wearing a bathing suit for 10 minutes in the midday sun will provide enough exposure. If you have darker skin or are older than 50, you may need to spend more time outside.

If you spend the winter here in Columbus, Ohio, it’s impossible for your body to make enough vitamin D from the sun. That’s because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. In the winter, you’ll need to consume vitamin-rich foods or take supplements.

Vitamin D occurs naturally in only a few foods. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the best sources. Beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms also provide small amounts.

Most Americans obtain vitamin D from fortified milk, which contains 400 IU per quart. Breakfast cereals, orange juice, yogurt, soy beverages and some other products may also contain added vitamin D. Check labels to see which brands and products contain the vitamin.

Vitamin D supplements are available over the counter and by prescription in two different forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both increase vitamin D in the blood. Many supplements combine vitamin D and calcium because they work together to promote healthy bones and teeth.

How Do I Know if I’m Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Your physician can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. According to the National Institutes of Health, a blood serum range of 20 to 50 nanograms per milliliter of a form known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D is considered adequate for bone and overall health. If your vitamin D level falls below that range, you may need a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D is Not a Panacea

Getting enough vitamin D and calcium is only one strategy for maintaining healthy teeth, jaws and gums. Dr. Thompson and Dr. Hoellrich stress the importance of daily brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups. A diet low in refined sugar and high in nutrient-dense meats, vegetables and fruits also helps to prevent dental decay.

Have Questions About Diet and Oral Health? Ask Us!

It’s an honor to have you as our patient! As your Columbus. Ohio dentists, we’re always here to answer your questions. Please give us a call at 614-486-7378 with your questions, or ask our staff about any dietary concerns during your next visit. You can also submit questions via our Ask a Dentist form online.

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The benefits of keeping your mouth healthy when you are pregnant

6 common misconceptions about dental health