Does Your Dentist Test for Vitamin D Deficiency?
Why do I ask this? You probably know that good oral hygiene and regular checkups can keep your mouth healthy by preventing bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Healthy Mouth – Healthy Body
But did you know that a healthy mouth also leads to a healthy body?
Likewise, an unhealthy mouth can lead to more than bad breath, it can also increase the risk for serious health problems.
Since childhood, many of us have heard about the importance of calcium for building strong teeth and bones.
The Key Role of Vitamin D
But there’s another vitamin that plays a key role in both our closely-connected oral and physical health: vitamin D.
Vitamin D is gaining the attention it deserves in the media as studies are released revealing the myriad of benefits your body can experience when your vitamin D levels are sufficient.
Vitamin D has been shown to:
- Improve brain function
- Help people lose weight
- Lower rates of tooth decay
- Counteract periodontal disease
- Alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Improve kidney function
One major connection I’ve noticed in my patients, is their weight and vitamin D levels. When I have a patient that is overweight and suffers from gum disease, I always encourage a vitamin D test.
Obesity and periodontal disease have reached epidemic proportions in the United States; more than one-third of Americans being obese and half of American adults suffer from gum disease. Testing for vitamin D deficiency can play a critical role in addressing these public health crises.
Vitamin D and Weight Loss, and the Mouth-Body Connection
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways oral health is connected to our overall health – and the role vitamin D can play.
Consider gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – which has implications beyond poor dental health.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Our mouths contain bacteria and to get rid of this bacteria, your immune system releases substances that cause inflammation.
- Bacteria plays an integral role in the mouth through managing digestion, tooth mineralization, and gum health.
- The gums are a vascular network that sends information to the immune immune system. For example, your body’s response to gum disease can signal the immune system and trigger other inflammatory diseases.
- When you are in good health, your bacteria and immune system should work hand in hand. The bacteria in your mouth helps the immune system identify possible bad guys, which can be removed before they cause problems (this is similar to your gut responses).
- When the immune system is hypersensitive to its microbial environment, it creates inflammation. If this continues (an upset immune system and bacteria dysbiosis) then it there is chronic inflammation, and the tissues that support the gums and teeth are broken down.
This can cause swollen, bleeding gums, and gingivitis (the earliest stage of periodontal disease). If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which means “inflammation around the tooth.”
This is a condition where the swollen gum tissues detach from the tooth and form a space between the tooth and gums. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue supporting the teeth are destroyed, which can lead to tooth loss.
This is a very painful process, which is why initial signs of gum disease, like bleeding gums, should be taken very seriously.
Periodontitis may be linked to a host of other health problems, such as:
- Respiratory disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Coronary artery disease, stroke
- Premature births and even low-birth weight babies
Periodontal Disease And Obesity
You may be surprised to learn that researchers also believe in the possibility that periodontal disease can contribute to the development of obesity.
Studies have revealed significant associations between periodontal health, vitamin D and calcium. In fact, researchers have found that vitamin D acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and can support weight loss.
On the other hand, tooth decay can contribute to unhealthy, low weight in children. Studies have also shown that tooth decay (also known as dental caries) can impact children’s growth and well-being. Children with severe tooth decay weighed less than those without tooth decay. Treating the decayed teeth resulted in faster weight gain and improvements in the children’s quality of life.
Studies have linked vitamin D and lower rates of tooth decay, indicating a potential role for vitamin D to help prevent tooth decay.
Overall, there is an underlying connection of chronic inflammation, periodontal disease, and obesity. These are all symptoms of an irritated immune system, which low vitamin D levels can exacerbate. Vitamin D fosters a tolerant immune system and combats all of these issues.
So let’s make sure you are getting enough vitamin D!
Weight Loss and Vitamin D: 2 Important Studies
One Italian study suggests that taking a vitamin D supplement may help those who are already deficient.
In this study, 400 overweight and obese people with vitamin D deficiency started a low-calorie diet and were separated into three groups.
The first group did not take any vitamin D supplements. The second and third groups took 25,000 international units (IU) and 100,000 IU of vitamin D respectively.
After six months, participants in the groups that had taken vitamin D supplements had greater weight loss and waistline reductions than those who had not taken the supplements.
In another study, 218 overweight and obese women were put on a restricted calorie diet and exercise routine and followed for a year. Half of the women were given a vitamin D supplement. The other half received a placebo.
At the end of the study, researchers discovered that the women who received the vitamin D supplement experienced more weight loss than those with inadequate levels.
Vitamin D may help with weight loss by changing the way fat cells are stored and formed and by boosting serotonin and testosterone levels.
Vitamin D has wide reaching implication in your overall health, which is why I stress getting nutrient testing done, especially if you have bleeding gums or are overweight. You could find that your health struggle can be more easily corrected than you realized.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Given the promising benefits of vitamin D, how can you be sure you’re getting enough?
The most accurate way to test your vitamin D levels is by doing a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A result of 20 nanograms (ng)/milliliter (mL) to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy individuals. You may be deficient in vitamin D if your level is less than 12 ng/mL.
You’ll need a doctor to perform this test. And don’t be afraid to ask for a vitamin D test. Even if your doctor hasn’t thought to test you for vitamin D deficiency doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.
If your gums are bleeding, you have gum disease, and especially if you’re also overweight, ask your dentist to perform a vitamin D test to see if this could be a nutrient you need more of.
More Vitamin D for Weight Loss
Your body produces vitamin D when you’re exposed to sunlight – that’s why vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” You can also get vitamin D through supplements or certain foods. Because foods typically don’t contain vitamin D naturally, some foods are fortified with the vitamin. Foods that contain vitamin D include:
- Egg yolk
- Grass-fed dairy contains natural vitamin D and is highly recommended
- Yogurt from grass-fed cows
Sometimes, it can be hard to get enough vitamin D through sunlight exposure and food. You can also consider taking a supplement. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommends the following IUs (international units) for vitamin D per day:
- Children and teens: 600 IU
- Adults up to age 70: 600 IU
- Adults over age 70: 800 IU
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: 600 IU
But I recommend more. I believe adults should be taking at least 2,000 IU and children up to 1,200 IU.
I also strongly recommend that you try and get some sun (around 20 minutes) before applying sunscreen.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking a vitamin D supplement.
When we think of a typical dentist visit, we may picture getting our teeth cleaned, having an office exam or going for an x-ray. Due to a growing body of evidence, making sure we have been tested for vitamin D deficiency can also be an important step in taking care of our oral and overall health.
Which is why I wanted to ask you…
Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.
Does your dentist test for vitamin D deficiency?
Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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