Believe me when I say that being a dentist means people assume that I can be identified as a “sugar evader.” Some people even expect me to lecture on the evil effects of sugar the minute they sit in my dental chair. But the reality is that sugar, like a lot of things we love, is okay in moderation. It’s naturally available in a lot of foods we eat, even healthy ones, which is why I’d like to talk about a few foods that contribute to healthy teeth and gums. You see, when it comes to food, what you need to eat for a healthy smile is almost as important as what you need to avoid.
Vitamin C does more for you than you think
Vitamin C strengthens the connective tissue that holds teeth to our jawbone and is required component in collagen synthesis. It also keeps blood vessels strong, while its antioxidants naturally reduce inflammation and protect us from free radicals, a potent carcinogen. When consumed, it can actually slow or prevent gingivitis. In one study researchers found that people with low levels of Vitamin C in their systems had a 20 percent greater chance of developing gum disease that those people with adequate levels. Foods like bell peppers and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are loaded with Vitamin C, and of course in their natural form you can avoid some of that added sugar.
If you’re running out of ideas on what to serve the family when it comes to your daily quota of Vitamin C, here’s a quick list of a few: blackberries, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cabbage (all varieties), clementines, kale, kidney beans, kiwi, kohlrabi, lemons and lemon juice, lychees, mangoes, mustard greens, okra, papaya, persimmons, pineapple, raspberries, rutabagas, sugar snap peas, snow peas, tangerines, tomatoes, turnip greens, summer squash, strawberries, watermelon, and white potatoes. Now that should be enough to choose from the next time you’re in the grocery store!
Vitamin D and Calcium
Vitamin D is oil soluble, which means you need to eat fats to absorb it. It is naturally found in small quantities in fish oils and fatty fish, and to a lesser extent in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and certain mushrooms. Vitamin D is widely added to many foods such as milk and orange juice, and can also simply be consumed as a vitamin supplement. Since childhood we’ve been told to drink 3 glasses of milk for strong bones and teeth, mostly due to the Vitamin D added in processing (added to combat Rickets: a deficiency in Vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium metabolism). Luckily, although many people avoid dairy products because of lactose intolerance or various other reasons such as animal cruelty, there are plenty of other foods that contain some Vitamin D. However, CDC statistics between 2001 and 2006 has indicated that 8 percent of the US population was at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, while one-fourth of the population was at risk for Vitamin D inadequacy. Of course our skin is also responsible for manufacturing Vitamin D from sunlight yet another reason why people may have inadequate levels of Vitamin D is because they avoid the sun or simply live in areas that get little sun.
Why is Vitamin D important to my teeth?
The human body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium from your diet. Without it, your system takes calcium stores from your skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents our bodies from forming new bone. While low Vitamin D and calcium is most often associated with osteoporosis and bone fractures, many folks fail to see the correlation between strong bones and teeth. For example, if a patient has low bone density the jawbone will be no exception and without a strong jawbone your teeth are more susceptible to periodontal disease.
Research reveals women who receive less than 500 milligrams of calcium per day have a 54 percent greater chance of periodontal disease than those women who receive 800 milligrams of calcium per day. Of course without Vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed properly through the body, so it’s critical that everyone consume both Vitamin D and calcium in the recommended quantities. Other than weak bones, inadequate levels of Vitamin D can lead to a compromised immune system, increased cancer risk, poor hair growth, and osteomalacia, a condition of weakened muscles and bones. Conversely, excess Vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, leading to increased risk of heart attack and kidney stones.
At Dr. Mark Langberg, we make it our business to keep you updated on the latest information in oral and dental health care. What you know does make a difference and your smile and oral health is truly a window on your health. We offer many pain-free and advanced services, from implants to sedation dentistry to appliances for treating snoring and sleep apnea. Come see what modern dentistry with a caring and qualified professional looks and feels like by calling us at 248-356-8790. Because you’ll know the difference!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790