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Vitamin D May Help Gums and Teeth


Could adding more vitamin D to your life improve the health of your gums and teeth? A new study suggests vitamin D can fight bacterial infections that attack the gums and lead to gingivitis and tooth loss.

Vitamin D may improve your smile

Dental health in the United States is in trouble. Tooth decay affects children more than any other chronic infectious disease. Left untreated, it can cause pain and infections that can jeopardize the ability to eat, speak, and learn. Nearly one-third of adults have untreated tooth decay, and about 75 percent have gingivitis, which is inflammation or infection of the gums.

If gingivitis is not treated promptly or at all, the infection and inflammation can spread from the gums to the ligaments and bones in the jaw, resulting in periodontitis. This dental problem is the main cause of tooth loss in adults.

In previous research, Gill Diamond of the New Jersey Dental School in Newark found that vitamin D can cause lung cells to produce a natural antibiotic that can kill bacteria. Diamond and colleagues have now shown that vitamin D has the same impact on cells in the gums (gingival).

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In addition, Diamond discovered that vitamin D is involved in expressing some genes that previously were not believed to be part of the vitamin D pathway and which now may prove to have a role in fighting infection. This discovery may lead to specific therapies using vitamin D.

The new study also revealed that gum cells, like lung cells, have an ability to activate inactive forms of vitamin D. According to Diamond, “this means that we may even be able to use vitamin D therapy topically, if that proves true.”

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, and reasons include insufficient exposure to sunlight and inadequate consumption of foods rich in vitamin D. In the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board has established that children and adults up to age 70 need only 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D, and that the elderly need 800 IU.

However, many experts, including the Vitamin D Council, agree these recommendations are much too low. In the absence of adequate sunlight exposure, the Vitamin D Council recommends the following supplementation with vitamin D: 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight for healthy children older than 1 year, and at least 5,000 IU for healthy adolescents and adults. Individuals with health conditions may require more.

Studies have shown vitamin D plays an integral role in bone health and may reduce the risk of colon cancer, improve risk factors for diabetes, and relieve depression, among other benefits. This new study suggests vitamin D may also prove helpful in improving the health of gums and teeth.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
McMahon L et al. Infection and Immunity 2011; 79 (6): 2250 doi: 10.1128/IAI.00099-11
Vitamin D Council