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Vitamin D and Your Teeth

By Dr. Mercola

Studies have linked geographical variations in dental health and tooth loss to sun exposure.

Dental caries has been shown to be inversely related to mean hours of sunlight per year, with people living in the sunny west having half as many cavities as those in the much less sunny northeast. As reported by the Vitamin D Council:

"There were also several studies reported on vitamin D and dental caries in the 1920s and 1930s. May Mellanby and coworkers in Sheffield, England, did studies on the role of vitamin D on teeth in the 1920s.

The first experiments were with dogs, where it was found that vitamin D stimulated the calcification of teeth. Subsequently, they studied the effect of vitamin D on dental caries in children, finding a beneficial effect.

Additional studies were conducted on children in New York regarding dental caries with respect to season, artificial ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance, and oral intake of vitamin D with the finding that it took 800 IU/day to prevent caries effectively."


Two proposed mechanisms causing this beneficial effect include:

Vitamin D beneficially affects calcium metabolism, and
Vitamin D, which is produced in your body in response to sunlight exposure, induces cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide, which attacks oral bacteria linked to dental caries
According to the Vitamin D Council:

"Use of vitamin D appears to be a better option for reducing dental caries than fluoridation of community water supplies, as there are many additional health benefits of vitamin D and a number of adverse effects of water fluoridation such as fluorosis (mottling) of teeth and bones. ... Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations around 30-40 ng/ml (75-100 nmol/L) should significantly reduce the formation of dental caries. (The average white American has a level near 25 ng/ml, while the average black American has a level near 16 ng/ml.)"

Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Vitamin D

As you probably know, many public water supplies around the US are fluoridated, allegedly to help prevent dental caries. However, there's overwhelming evidence showing that ingesting fluoride is NOT the way to protect your teeth. On the contrary, fluoride is a potent toxin, and over 40 percent of American children and teens are showing signs of fluoride overexposure in the form of dental fluorosis—unsightly yellow or brown spots or mottling on their teeth.

Fluoride consumption has also been linked to a long list of other health problems.

The idea that vitamin D may help protect against cavities is very interesting, and actually makes loads of sense since we already know it is necessary for bone health. Vitamin D also upregulates a specific gene that produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, some of which work like broad-spectrum antibiotics, including cathelicidin that attacks oral bacteria.

It's also interesting to note the connections between oral health, heart health, and vitamin D status.

For example, gum disease increases your risk of several other serious diseases, including, pneumonia, lung disease, diabetes and stroke—and vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of all of these conditions! This is a beautiful illustration of the interdependency between seemingly disparate systems within your body.

The Best Source of Vitamin D

Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D as this will also produce vitamin D3 sulfate, which I discussed earlier. As a general guideline, getting about 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day, with at least 40 percent of your skin exposed, will boost the vitamin levels above 40 ng/ml in many. However, this is highly variable and dependent on a number of factors, including your skin color, location and altitude, for example. If you're able to get out in the sun for an adequate time period each day, your vitamin D levels should be naturally optimized.

If you can't get enough sun exposure during certain parts of the year, I advise using a safe tanning bed to allow your body to produce vitamin D naturally. Safe tanning beds have electronic ballasts and produce less UVA than sunshine.

A third option is taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement. The most important thing to keep in mind if you opt for oral supplementation is to use natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) only. Do not use the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2. Unless you get a deep dark tan, it is wise to get your blood levels checked as that is the only way to know for certain you have reached therapeutic levels. To determine the appropriate dose, you need to get your vitamin D levels tested. Ideally, you'll want to be between 50-70 ng/ml. Based on recent research published by Grassroots Health from the D*Action study, the average adult needs to take 8,000 IU's of vitamin D per day in order to elevate their levels above 40 ng/ml, which they believe is the bare minimum for disease prevention.

 

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