News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Sunshine Can Save Your Teeth
Cod liver oil, which contains Vitamin D, was the first product to be endorsed by the Council of Dental Therapeutics of the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1931. The ADA judged by scientific evidence at that time that Cod liver oil, with Vitamin D as the main ingredient, was beneficial to teeth and gums.
In addition to its dental benefits, Vitamin D, also called the “Sunshine Vitamin”, is essential to general health. Without it, cells could not perform their functions and the brain would not fully develop, according to an article published in the Blaylock Wellness Report. The article further states that despite benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin, the rising number of malignant melanomas in the United States caused alarms to be raised over over-exposure to sun. But, by making people Vitamin D deficient, we inadvertently, increased people’s risk of developing all forms of skin cancer, including the malignant melanoma. The major source of Vitamin D is from the sun. But, getting enough sunshine to produce our own vitamin D has been strongly discouraged, and, as a result, the average person’s level of vitamin D has plummeted, according to the Blaylock Report.
A recent publication by the Mayo Clinic states that Vitamin D plays a role in reducing major medical problems including heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. The best way to obtain vitamin D is from sunshine. The body synthesizes Vitamin D after exposure to sunshine. Casual exposure to sunlight of ten to fifteen minutes twice per week can generate up to 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. For those who live in an area with limited access to sunshine, eating foods fortified with vitamin D, such a milk, eggs, sardines and tuna fish may also provide sufficient amount of this vitamin. Be sure to consult with your physician about whether you should be taking a vitamin D, calcium or any other supplement.
Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D and calcium deficiencies result in bone loss and increased inflammation. Inflammation is a major symptom of periodontal (gum) disease, and is recognized by many dental scientists that vitamin D and calcium may be a risk factor for this common disease.
The increase of a protein called “proinflammatory cytokine” is associated with a number of infectious diseases, including periodontal disease. It has been demonstrated through studies that vitamin D can suppress cytokine production, and possibly lower the risks associated with this protein.
According to the ADA, Vitamin D synthesis is important in promoting healthy gums, but not the entire answer to treating this disease. Periodontal disease occurs in the presence of specific types of bacteria (periodontal pathogens), in the form of “plaque,” that triggers in the susceptible host (the patient who is genetically vulnerable) an inflammatory process, including the production of cytokines. This inflammatory cellular reaction incites certain white blood cells (e.g., polymorphocytes) to destroy the bone supporting the teeth. As bone is destroyed, deep spaces are formed between the gum and the root. These are called gum “pockets.” Over time these pockets deepened and spread, resulting in the eventual loss of teeth.
Treatment consists of careful removal of the plaque, which is made up of millions of colonies of harmful bacteria lodged under the gum. This procedure is called “root planing.” If the pockets are normalized after root planing, the patient should return for regular recall visits for “dis-infection” of the pockets. Bacteria that cause gum disease are analogous to termites that destroy the foundation of your house. The disease cannot be cured, but can only be controlled through regular maintenance care. Surgery, or special non-surgical methods, may be necessary if root planing and good oral hygiene does not return the patient to normal.
To keep your teeth and gums healthy brush and floss your teeth two or three times daily, see your dentist regularly. You might even try a spoonful or a tablet of cod liver oil, along with a little bit of sunshine this summer.