Vitamin D Linked to Lower Rates of Tooth Decay

It is a well-known and undisputed fact that Vitamin D is necessary for normal bone growth and health.  Without Vitamin D, bones become thin, brittle or misshapen.  However, although there is no disputation as to Vitamin D’s role in supporting bone health, there is disagreement over whether or not the vitamin helps prevent tooth decay.

Although the American Medical Association and the U.S. National Research Council reported in 1950 that Vitamin D was beneficial in preventing tooth decay, the American Dental Association (ADA) disagreed.  In 1989, The National Research Council called the issue unresolved.

A recent review published in the December issue of Nutrition Reviews, reports that Vitamin D is beneficial in preventing dental caries, also known as tooth decay.

In the review, researchers from the University of Washington, reviewed twenty-four clinical trials that spanned sixty years – from the 1920’s to the 1980’s – on 3,000 children from several countries, and found that Vitamin D use resulted in an approximately fifty percent reduction in the incidence of tooth decay.

These findings do not surprise researchers familiar with past Vitamin D studies.  One professor of medicine at the Boston University Medical Center stated that this latest review reaffirms the importance of Vitamin D for dental health.  He also said “children who are vitamin D deficient have poor and delayed teeth eruption and are prone to dental caries.”

In modern times, Vitamin D levels in many societies are decreasing while tooth decay levels in children are increasing.    Although this could be a mere coincidence, researchers point out it would make sense for mothers to make sure their young children are receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin D to ensure proper bone and dental health. 

Very few foods in nature contain Vitamin D.  Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, and fish liver oil are the best natural sources.  However, small amounts of this vitamin can be found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Other foods today are fortified with Vitamin D, and these include milk,  orange juice, cereal and infant formula.

Another method of meeting Vitamin D needs is through exposure to sunlight.  Researchers report that approximately 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm at least twice a week without sunscreen is needed for sufficient Vitamin D synthesis.

The final way to receive an adequate dose of Vitamin D is through supplements.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children who do not obtain 400 IU/day of Vitamin D through fortified milk and foods should take a 400 IU Vitamin D supplement daily.