Vitamin D has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. Just in the past week, we heard about research suggesting it may lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and another finding no evidence that D supplements reduce depression.* Dr. Oz devoted good chunk of airtime to the topic.
We’ve mentioned it before, as well, since this key nutrient is just as essential for good oral health as for overall health.
Consider yet another new study – this, just published in Public Health Nutrition – which looked for an association between predicted vitamin D status, periodontitis (severe gum disease) and tooth loss (a result of gum disease).
The researchers analyzed 20 years of data from over 40,000 adults. Those with the highest predicted D scores, they found, showed a 20% lower incidence of tooth loss. The results with respect to gum disease were “similar.”
Why should there be an association?
Vitamin D is critical for bone health, helping your body better absorb and assimilate calcium. As a review in the Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology explains,
recent studies showed significant associations between periodontal health and intake of vitamin D and calcium, and that dietary supplementation with calcium and vitamin D may improve periodontal health, increase bone mineral density in the mandible and inhibit alveolar bone resorption. In a recently published longitudinal study, Garcia et al. reported that calcium and vitamin D supplementation may reduce the severity of periodontal disease if used at doses higher than 800-1,000 IU daily and supported the rationale for testing the potential beneficial role of vitamin D on periodontal disease in randomized clinical trials. They also noted that vitamin D, in addition to its role in bone and calcium homeostasis, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent because it inhibits immune cell cytokine expression and causes monocyte/macrophages to secrete molecules that have a strong antibiotic effect. Indeed, vitamin D deficiency may be linked to increased risk of infectious diseases. This suggests that vitamin D may be of benefit in the treatment of periodontitis, not only because of its direct effects on bone metabolism, but also because it may have antibiotic effects on periodontopathogens and inhibit inflammatory mediators that contribute to the periodontal destruction. [Emphasis added]
In other words, your gums are apt to thank you for making sure they get enough of these two nutrients.
How to do that? With D, of course, you can make your own: Sunshine converts 7-dehydrocholestrol in our skin into vitamin D3. There are also some good food sources of the nutrient – and not all of them dairy, either. You can look beyond dairy for calcium-rich foods, as well. In fact, some leafy greens contain more calcium per serving than a glass of milk – and contain a lot of other important, health-promoting nutrients and compounds, as well.
When all else fails, supplements are always a possibility. The ideal, however, is to take your nutrition as nature intended you to.
*The authors do note, however, that D supplements “may help patients with clinically significant depression.” They also “note that supplementation with vitamin D also may be effective only for those with vitamin D deficiency. They also recommend that future studies consider how vitamin D dosing and mode of delivery contribute to its effects on depression.”
Image by Lay-Luh, via Flickr