Do you know which are the four leading causes of tooth loss in adults? According to WebMD, there are two types of factors that predetermine the extent and speed of losing your teeth. Those are either within your control, such as maintaining good oral hygiene, smoking and heavy drinking. Or, they can be a result of an ailment like rheumatoid arthritis, gum disease or simply a genetic predisposition. So, the top four are comprised of: gum disease, cavities, physical injury and other diseases and risk factors.
But what is the importance of nutrition to our teeth and overall health? According to WHO, it is a critical part of our health and development. It plays a vital role in building and maintaining a strong immune system, life longevity and battling diseases.
Malnutrition, on the other hand, is linked to overall health deterioration and poses a huge threat to our well-being. The World Health Organisation goes into further detail and determines different types of malnutrition.
- Undernutrition (lack of nutrition due to not having or not eating enough)
- Poor vitamin and mineral intake
- Other diet-related diseases
In this article, we’re going to explore what are vitamins and minerals, what vitamins do and how they can help us improve our overall well-being.
What are vitamins and why are they important
I will try to steer clear of medical terms and complicated definitions as much as possible. Still, I believe that the definition of vitamins that Medical News Today offer is simple enough to give us a clear idea and a good understanding of the matter.
You may know that different people have diverse vitamin requirements, and while some of them we can produce ourselves, others we need to either get from food or extra supplements. For instance, vitamin D is not widely available in our everyday food sources, therefore we need alternative ways to get it. Can you name one off the top of your head? You guessed it – direct sunlight – our bodies produce it when exposed to the sun.
Types of vitamins
All of the vitamins below play an essential role in our bodily functions. If you do not get enough of a certain vitamin that your body needs to function normally, you may suffer from vitamin deficiency which leads to severe health issues.
Having good awareness of your lifestyle, and particularly paying close attention to your diet is of paramount importance. If you don’t consume enough legumes, fruits, whole grain foods and vegetables you are exposed to elevated risk for developing serious health problems like chronic heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis among others.
Depending on the way they are absorbed by our bodies, the vitamins are divided into two groups – water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed best when we eat higher-fat foods. They are stored in our body’s fatty tissues and in the liver. Fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, for example, can be found in animal food sources like beef liver, and dairy products and also in plant ones like sweet potato, kale, and carrots, among others.
- Vitamin A – responsible for maintaining healthy bones, skin, soft tissue and teeth
- Vitamin D – synthesized by our body after being exposed to the sun. Pro tip: 15 minutes of sunshine at least 3 times per week is sufficient for most people around the world to produce enough vitamin D. It is vital for people who live in places with poor sunshine exposure to take extra supplements. Vitamin D helps calcium absorption which is responsible for healthy teeth and bones. Calcium is also responsible for healthy blood pressure levels, as it ensures that blood vessels will tighten and relax when they need to.
- Vitamin E – this type of vitamin is also an antioxidant called tocopherol. Antioxidants serve for protecting your cells against free radicals. Free radicals are particles that cause massive chemical reactions in your body. Those can be produced when your system breaks down the food that you have consumed. Or, in other cases, smoke tobacco; or you have been exposed to radiation. These reactions are called oxidation and can be either harmful or beneficial. A good example of a useful oxidation process in the body is helping battle pathogens and reducing risks of inflammation and infection. The harmful oxidation is also known as oxidative stress. It occurs when there is no balance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body.
- Vitamin K – has a vital role to help blood clotting (also known as coagulation. This process is essential especially when we’ve had blood loss as a result of an injury. Basically, we want it to stop quickly to avoid massive blood loss, for example in more serious traumatic experiences. Blood clotting reduces bleeding every time we are injured and blood vessels are damaged – regardless of whether it’s just a scratch on the skin or more accidents.
As opposed to fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble ones are not stored in our organisms. That means, we need a more regular supply of them as they are expelled out of our bodies when we urinate. Vitamins like B and C are water-soluble.
- Vitamin B2 – responsible for the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells have a huge responsibility for our overall health as they serve to carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body through the bloodstream.
- Vitamin B6 – helps maintain good brain function. There is a proven scientific correlation between protein intake and vitamin B6 consumption.
- Vitamin B1 – it’s important lays in the function of converting carbohydrates into energy. Remember that carbs are not only important for the mood-stabilising process in our brain, but also they are extremely important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They are essential fuels for you and your baby as the brain uses glucose as a prime source of energy.
- Vitamin B12 – converts the food we ingest into sugars and other fuel types so that our body functions properly and has the energy for it. This vitamin can also be associated with dieting and weight loss as it is known to be a metabolism booster. Disclaimer: This effect is highly individual and doesn’t work with everyone, unfortunately.
- Vitamin B5 – plays an important part in hormone production and cholesterol control. Not only does it help break down fats and carbs to generate energy and is also responsible for the body’s stress management process. Maintaining healthy levels of your adrenal glands helps control stress hormones like cortisol.
If you want to make sure you have good gum health and avoid bacteria-borne diseases like gum disease, vitamin C is a key component of your dietary supplements. It ensures that you have healthy and solid connective tissues in your gums. And you know that gums are responsible for keeping your teeth in place. Gum disease is the top reason for tooth loss among patients who’ve been forced to wear dentures or get dental implants after struggling with gum disease for a long time. How to spot vitamin C deficiency symptoms? Make sure you look out for bleeding gums and gum disease. Still, prevention is always the best medicine, so if you want healthy gums, don’t forget to add these 4 top sources of vitamin C – Citrus fruit, bell peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.
How to deal with vitamin deficiency in teeth?
As we already clarified vitamins are extremely important for our overall health, and some of them in particular are essential for excellent oral health. Take vitamin D for instance – remember its importance for proper calcium and phosphorus absorption? Together they help make teeth and bones stronger, through a process called mineralisation. Calcium needs phosphorus especially in children’s dietary supplements as they form the hard structure of their teeth during growth. Furthermore, a controlled study shows the association between vitamin D and dental caries in children – children with vitamin D deficiency were 10 times more likely to develop dental cavities.
To prevent tooth damage, you need proper vitamin D intake as it will help the body absorb calcium. For that purpose, you can rely on foods like fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Another mineral that helps the body absorb calcium optimally, is magnesium. It plays a critical role in building strong bones and teeth. Nuts, legumes and whole grains among others are the best magnesium food source.
Did you know that more than 45% of adults in the UK suffer from gum disease? Gum disease is developed in the oral cavity and as a result, harmful bacteria attack the gum tissue. It destroys the jawbone underneath and causes your teeth to become loose.
What’s worse, bacteria travel through your bloodstream and can affect other parts of your body. This is why Vitamin C consumption is vital. It is a powerful antioxidant which helps maintain healthy gums and deal with gum inflammation by boosting collagen production. You can find vitamin C in dietary supplements and citrus fruit like oranges, kiwis, lemons and more.
Keeping the saliva flowing and maintaining optimal pH levels in the oral cavity is an important aspect of your overall health that is often ignored. Vitamin A is responsible for creating saliva, and we know that saliva helps break down foods and cleans bacteria brought by food that remains in between your teeth.
Vitamin overdose and symptoms
Now, we talked about how important paying attention to vitamin deficiency is, but what about signs of vitamin overdose in adults? Here is a list of the most common vitamins overdose symptoms:
- Vitamin A – overdose can be toxic, but fortunately do not cause death. although during pregnancy, high levels of vitamin A can harm the fetus. Overdose symptoms may include headaches, nausea and dizziness among others.
- Vitamin D – although extremely rare, overuse of supplements can cause too much calcium in the blood. Expected symptoms: reduced appetite and weight loss, high blood pressure, kidney & heart failure and more
- Vitamin E – it is highly unlikely to achieve through diet only, but can happen from supplements. It is especially important for patients who have experienced a stroke or heart attack and need to take medications to deal with blood clotting, such as warfarin. You should consult your physician before taking vitamin E supplements as they may hamper blood clotting.
Bringing it all together
A well-balanced diet will help you achieve optimal vitamin and mineral intake. They are responsible for helping the smooth running of bodily processes, and dental and oral health. Excellent oral care should also be combined with vitamin supplements that will ensure gum and teeth health. If you have been struggling with tooth loss, and wear dentures or implants, you need to pay extra attention to your supplements levels to make sure your body doesn’t suffer from any vitamin deficiencies. If you have any symptoms or suspect a certain vitamin deficiency or overdose, always consult your physician.