In conjunction with healthy hygiene habits, certain vitamins and minerals can play a role in your dental health. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can naturally strengthen tooth enamel, reduce gum inflammation, and protect against infection and disease. It also helps protect your teeth against foods and drinks that cause acid erosion.
Here are the top vitamins and minerals that are essential for a balanced diet and optimal dental health.
Vitamin A contributes to the immune system, vision, and saliva. It keeps saliva flowing, which breaks down food and flushes bacteria. It helps mucous membranes coat the mouth, cheeks and gums, making them less susceptible to infection and disease and able to heal quickly. Tooth enamel also contains keratin, a protein that uses vitamin A in its formation process.
A deficiency of Vitamin A impairs the cells responsible for secreting minerals that help strengthen teeth. Patients with vitamin A deficiency often present with porous and thin enamel. They also are more susceptible to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Those who eat a balanced diet should be able to meet their vitamin A requirements without needing to supplement. Vitamin A is typically found in eggs, cheese, yogurt, oily fish, and liver. The body also can convert foods high in beta carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and red peppers, into vitamin A.
Vitamin C strengthens the gums and soft tissues in the mouth that hold teeth firmly in place. It does this by helping the body produce more collagen, which aids in cell repair and expedites the healing process. Vitamin C can protect against gingivitis and periodontitis and prevent tooth loss.
Patients who experience frequent gum bleeding might not get enough vitamin C. Experts believe that the amount of vitamin C needed to stop bleeding gums might be somewhat higher than the general health recommendations.
The human body does not produce vitamin C, so it must come from your diet. Vitamin C is also water-soluble, which means the body doesn’t store it, so it must be consumed daily. This is relatively easy to do, with so many available foods rich in vitamin C. These include citrus fruits, peppers, sweet potatoes, broccoli, berries, and kale.
Calcium is an essential mineral that helps strengthen bones and teeth. Calcium deficiency can lead to poor bone health and other conditions. It can also negatively affect your teeth. In fact, researchers have found a correlation between people who do not get enough calcium and those missing one or more teeth.
When calcium levels are insufficient, a person’s body will draw on stores in the bones. As this occurs, the bones supporting the teeth can become weak and brittle, leading to several potential complications, including tooth loss. Lack of calcium may also make a person more susceptible to cancers and diseases in the mouth.
Most people can easily meet their calcium needs through their regular diets. Children and teens need about 1,300 mg of calcium daily, while adults require 700 mg. Sources of calcium include milk, cheese, and other dairy foods, leafy greens, soy products, and whole fish, like sardines.
Vitamin D is crucial for sustaining healthy bones and teeth, as it helps the digestive system to absorb calcium from the diet. Adequate vitamin D levels also are needed to repair damaged or infected dentin–the layer of the tooth under the enamel that contains live cells the body uses to protect the blood supply and nerves to the teeth.
Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in many foods, but it is fortified in some types of milk and cereals. It is also contained in fatty fish, some red meats, and egg yolks. The body also makes vitamin D in response to direct sunlight exposure. Getting up to 30 minutes of natural sunlight per day can be a great source of vitamin D, as long as the face and arms are exposed.
Many adults don’t get enough exposure to sunlight, or they have trouble absorbing enough vitamin D. A physician can easily detect vitamin D levels through a simple blood test, and they can prescribe a supplement if necessary. On average, dental and orthodontic patients with low vitamin D have higher incidences of tooth decay.
Vitamin K is essential for strong, healthy bones and plays a vital role in blood clotting. Vitamin K2 is actually a type of protein that works along with Vitamin D to move calcium out of soft tissue and the bloodstream and into the teeth and bones.
Additionally, Vitamin K2 can help prevent calculus, or tartar, from forming on the upper molars and behind the bottom front teeth. Calculus tends to form in these specific areas because they are right next to saliva glands in the cheeks and under the tongue.
Unlike vitamin K1, which can be found in leafy greens, vitamin K2 occurs in aged cheeses, eggs, pork, and chicken.
Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium, which is critical to building strong teeth and tooth enamel, but more than half of Americans do not obtain enough of it through their diets. A deficiency can lead to softening of the enamel and increased susceptibility to decay. It also can lead to muscle tension, which can cause teeth grinding and lead to headaches and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Foods that offer the most magnesium are leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This mineral also is widely available as a supplement. You can avoid magnesium depletion by steering away from refined sugars, as well as avoiding regular consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
Phosphorus works together with calcium to support bone production and remodeling. Calcium needs phosphorus to do its job, so inadequate phosphorus levels will waste the body’s calcium stores. Low phosphorus results in brittle bones and teeth and can contribute to TMJ pain. The best sources of phosphorus can be found in protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, cheese, beans, and eggs.
Potassium is a companion to magnesium in the body’s ability to absorb calcium. When potassium levels are low, acids can remove calcium from your teeth and jawbone. Potassium also can combine with other compounds to reduce tooth sensitivity. Therefore, a potassium-rich diet will help teeth use calcium more efficiently to build healthy enamel and support.
Bananas are the most well-known potassium source, but it actually occurs in many foods. It is found in fruits, such as apricots, oranges, raisins, and prunes; in vegetables, such as squash, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes; in beans and legumes, such as soy and lentils; and in dairy and meat.
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