Vitamins For Teeth
I get this question a lot: “What can I do to keep my teeth healthy if I don’t want to use fluoride?”. It is a valid question. And although I am tempted to jump into the fluoride debate (one in which I stand with the exiguous number of dentists who don’t believe it should be in the water supply), I refrain from going into a rant about how fluoride is actually an industrial waste and is doing nothing to prevent tooth decay. If it were so effective, tooth decay would not be the epidemic that it is in our country. But as I said, I refrain and stay focused on the question at hand. “What can I do to keep my teeth healthy if I don’t want to use fluoride?”
The answer: “Nourish your teeth from the inside out.” Interesting concept, and somewhat baffling at first. Most think that the tooth is an inanimate object, only needing cleaning and protection from the outside. So we brush and floss, and avoid sugars and think we have done our job to protect them from decay. But then a visit to the dentist can often prove otherwise. I hear it all the time. Patients saying that they do all the right things and don’t understand why they still get cavities.
A tooth is a vital structure with an internal core that houses the nerve and blood supply to the tooth. This blood supply carries nutrients to the tooth. And the primary nutrients needed to keep a tooth healthy are vitamin D, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.
Vitamin D is needed to keep the internal cells of the tooth healthy. These cells, called odontoblasts, serve as the immune system of the tooth. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a disruption in tooth formation, tooth decay in children, and gum disease in adults.
Vitamin D is important for the body to utilize calcium correctly. Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed by the tissues of the body. Without adequate vitamin D, calcium cannot be utilized correctly by the body, causing the body to pull calcium out of storage, meaning from the bone, leading to osteoporosis. Calcium that cannot be utilized due to lack of vitamin D will often present itself as tartar formation on the teeth, leading to gum disease. Patients who have a fast build-up of hard tartar on their teeth often have a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin A is responsible for making proteins that help build and repair teeth. Vitamin K2 is responsible for activating these proteins which work to help calcium get to where it needs to go. Vitamin K2 is also responsible for activating the protein that removes calcium from where it should not be (i.e. the inside of arteries). Much like vitamin D deficiency, if vitamin K2 is deficient, there will be an increased buildup of hardened tartar on the teeth because of the increased presence of calcium in solution, being pulled from the bone.
So, to answer the initial question of keeping teeth healthy without fluoride, I recommend a diet with adequate levels of vitamin D, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin K2. Vitamin D is made by our skin being exposed to the sun for about 20 minutes per day. Since 20 minutes of sunshine may be challenging some days, a diet of salmon, sardines, cow’s milk, tuna, eggs, or shiitake mushrooms will provide good amounts of vitamin D. Calcium is found in high amounts in tofu, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, and bok choy. Vitamin A is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, leafy greens, winter squash, romaine lettuce, bok choy, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and parsley. Vitamin K2 is actually converted from vitamin K in our bodies by bacteria in our large intestine. (Important to have good gut health!) Vitamin K is found in leafy greens, kale, spinach, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, basil, cilantro, sage, oregano, bok choy, and celery. Recommend to always eat organic produce and pasture-raised, grass-fed meat and dairy products.
With a diet that includes these vitamins, teeth can be well nourished and kept healthy for a lifetime!
Written by Shannon Toler, DDS