As the Fall and Winter months come upon us, let’s discuss how proper nutrition and specifically Vitamin D can help us achieve and maintain excellent oral health, even as the days grow shorter.
Is There A Pill That I Could Take To Improve My Teeth?
Would it only be that simple? In fact, I would keep it in my drawer next to my diet and exercise pill. However, let’s talk about some simple methods that may make a positive impact on our mouths.
It is somewhat amusing that this subject came up now, near the end of October. We are fast approaching our semi-annual activity of clock changing. This Saturday night we will move our clocks one hour backward as Daylight Saving Time is over for 2017.
(By the way, even though Daylight and Savings (with an “s” at the end) rolls beautifully off of our tongues, the correct term is Saving without the “s” at the end.)
Changing the clock, together with the advance of winter, creates a particular challenge for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter is a fast approaching and the available hours of daylight are dwindling. More darkness is the theme of the day.
Many studies talk about depression in the winter as related to less sunshine. I am not going to focus on that in this column. I want to talk about one of the latest trends in medicine. The idea of Vitamin D levels and their role in our general health.
Vitamin D is a misnomer
The truth is, Vitamin D is a misnomer. In fact, it is a hormone, not a vitamin.
A vitamin is something that is part of our diet. If we don’t eat foods that contain a particular vitamin, we will be deficient in that vitamin and develop a disease. At one time beriberi was an incurable disease until it was found to come from a vitamin deficiency.
Vitamins are compounds that the body can not make on its own, but instead, relies on our diet to supply these essential chemicals.
Michael Holick, Ph.D., M.D., who is one of the leading authorities in the science of Vitamin D, explains the difference.
A hormone is something that the body makes if given the right ingredients. This hormone then goes to other parts of the body where it regulates many various functions. As such, Vitamin D is not a vitamin. It is a hormone.
Vitamin D production requires sunlight
Vitamin D manufacture relies on an outside source to start the process. That external source is sunlight. The ultraviolet B portion of sunlight initiates a mechanism to create pre-vitamin D3, which then turns into Vitamin D.
So Vitamin D is made in the skin with the addition of sunlight. We now understand why the levels of Vitamin D are so low in the winter. We are missing our precious sunshine.
How Vitamin D affects our oral health
An article from the Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association in 2011 tells us that Vitamin D deficiency “may place patients at risk for not only low bone density, (i.e., osteopenia and osteoporosis) but all infections and chronic inflammatory diseases”.
So not only does Vitamin D affect the strength of our bones around the teeth, but it also may protect the gums from developing periodontal disease.
I have seen many patients who don’t have the most excellent health habits, yet their gums are remarkably stable. I always referred to this as the hidden genetic protection that was present in those patients. It is also possible due to resistance to the disease process because of proper levels of Vitamin D.
More and more healthcare professionals are recommending taking Vitamin D supplements to aid in our low levels because of where we live. Many physicians that I speak with talk about 2000 IU of Vitamin D and go up to 4000 IU taken daily. Personally, I ingest 3000 IU on a daily basis.
Of course, the correct way to proceed is to get your Vitamin D levels checked and if low (which they probably will be in Northeast Ohio) take a supplement and recheck in 3 months to make sure that you are on the right path.
There is a pill to help improve our oral health!
So one pill that we can take to help our mouths is Vitamin D. This is not a substitute for outstanding oral care which includes proper brushing and flossing techniques. Reduction of candies and sweets (yes, Halloween is this week) is also very important.
Professional cleanings from our excellent hygiene staff and periodic exams to keep you on track are all crucial.
Call Megan today at 440.951.7856 and find out about our “Better Than Insurance” initiative to save you money and preserve your teeth for a lifetime.
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD, is an Ohio-licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.