Improving your diet with Vitamin D and Vitamin K can help you oral health
Good hygiene is only a part of preventing or reversing gum disease. While hygiene helps keep bacteria under control, nutrition helps restore the tissues that they wreck. On the one hand, it’s about limiting foods that feed the harmful bacteria in your mouth – sugar, of course, but also refined grain products (think bread, crackers, pasta, and the like) and starchy foods (think potatoes, fries and chips).
But it also means increasing your intake of more healthful foods that give you the nutrients you need to keep your gums healthy and the supporting jawbone strong. For gum disease doesn’t just damage the soft tissues. It also destroys the bone underneath. It’s why teeth become loose as periodontal disease progresses. Eventually, they fall out.
But they don’t have to. Not if you give your body what it needs to reverse the damage.
Vitamin D to fight Gingivitis
While there are many nutrients, vitamins and minerals alike, that play a crucial role in periodontal health, a couple are especially important: vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.
D is crucial for helping your body absorb calcium, one of the main minerals that makes up bone. How crucial? Recent studies of professional football players, for instance, suggest the importance of D to both health and performance. They aren’t definitive studies, but it’s intriguing that players low in this nutrient experience more bone fractures and muscle injuries.
Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce inflammation another key to its power in reversing gum disease. Inflammation is one of the ways gum disease has been linked to a range of other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and more.
Though eggs and some fatty fish contain good amounts of D, most of what we get comes from the sun. It’s ultraviolet rays turn 7-Dehydrocholesterol in your skin to cholecalciferol, a.k.a vitamin D3. How much exposure you need depends on where you live and how darkly complected you are. If you’re fair-skinned, a few minutes can be enough. If your skin is darker, you’ll need more.
It may be a testament to our sedentary lifestyles that many Americans are totally deficient in D and could benefit from supplementation. Likewise, supplements are an option for those with gum disease, since you need more than just the recommended amount – a therapeutic dose.
Vitamin D3 + K2
While D3 is great, it can’t do the best it can without another nutrient: vitamin K2. K1 is the form we get from foods like dark leafy greens. It’s good, but not as good as K2, which is mainly produced by intestinal bacteria, or gut flora. Probiotics can help ensure a good supply, though like D, it can be taken in supplement form, as well. A combo supplement of D3 and K2, together in the same pill, is ideal. And powerful.
As D helps your body absorb calcium, K is needed to direct that calcium to the proper location – bone – and not your organs or arteries. Additionally, Vitamin K2 activates a protein hormone called osteocalcin, produced by osteoblasts, which is needed to bind calcium into the matrix of your bone. Osteocalcin also appears to help prevent calcium from depositing into your arteries.
You can think of vitamin D as the gatekeeper, controlling who gets in, and vitamin K as the traffic cop, directing the traffic to where it needs to go.
Vitamins D3 and K2, along with a good multivitamin, make a big difference in periodontal health. And as always, supporting the health of your gums goes a long way toward supporting your overall health and well-being.
What Really Causes Tooth Decay?
There is a lot of evidence showing that diet had a tremendous impact on oral health (even more so than brushing in some cases) and that there had even been cases of cavities reversing. Knowing this you may ask yourself, Why would bones and other tissue be able to heal and regenerate, but not teeth?
How did other populations throughout the world have great oral health, no cavities and no need for braces when they didn’t even have access to modern dentistry?
As Dr. Weston A. Price found and detailed in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, there were cultures throughout the world who had perfect teeth despite no access to dentists or modern toothpaste, while similar cultures with different diets had very high rates of tooth decay.
He found examples of cultures with similar genetic backgrounds with some living in primitive type societies and eating primitive type diets and others who ate a modernized diet. He found that many primitive cultures were able to completely avoid tooth decay and the many oral health problems we struggle with today.
Many doctors have all reached the same conclusion after years of research, mainly that tooth structure and health is largely determined by diet, especially three main factors:
- The presence of enough minerals in the diet.
- The presence of enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet.
- How bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet and how much sugar is consumed.
What is Phytic Acid?
Phytic acid is a molecule of phosphorus tightly bound with other molecules to form a type of phosphorus that is not easily absorbed by humans.
Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.
Phytic acid is found in grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and in much smaller amounts in some fruits and vegetables. The body naturally converts phytic acid into phytates, which are un-absorbable and take calcium from the body. Those who consume high amounts of phytic acid will lose calcium and absorb other minerals at lower rates.
Modern growing practices, including the use of high phosphorus fertilizer, mean a higher phytic acid content in many foods. Seeds, nuts, bran, oatmeal, and soybeans are especially high in phytic acid, and these foods are present in abundance in modern diet.
Phytic Acid’s Effect on Bone and Tooth Health
People who consume large amounts of phytic acid (most Americans) in the form of grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes have higher rates of tooth decay, mineral deficiencies and osteoporosis.
Over the long term, when the diet lacks minerals or contains high levels of phytates or both, the metabolism goes down, and the body goes into mineral-starvation mode. The body then sets itself up to use as little of these minerals as possible. Adults may get by for decades on a high-phytate diet, but growing children run into severe problems. In a phytate-rich diet, their bodies will suffer from the lack of calcium and phosphorus with poor bone growth, short stature, rickets, narrow jaws and tooth decay; and for the lack of zinc and iron with anemia and mental retardation.
Just as lack of Vitamin D and poor calcium absorption can cause malformation of the bones of the legs (as in the case of Rickets), it can cause the jawbone to form poorly, resulting in spacing problems for the teeth and braces for the child.
Sadly, the most commonly eaten diet in America these days is high in grains, sugars, and vegetable oils, and low in animal fats and fat soluble vitamins- the exact opposite of what studies have found to be helpful for optimal bone health and the prevention of tooth decay.
The good news is that teeth (and bones) are able to heal themselves in a process called remineralization. Basically, specialized cells in the center of the tooth are able to regenerate dentin, the layer of tooth just under the enamel, and the enamel can then properly remineralize from the outside. This same process happens in bones when phytic acid is removed from the diet and minerals/fat soluble vitamins are added.
Fortunately, a decaying or broken tooth has the ability to heal itself. Pulp contains cells called odontoblasts, which form new dentin if the diet is good. It has been known that when the enamel and dentine are injured by attrition or caries, teeth do not remain passive but respond to the injury by producing a reaction of the odontoblasts in the dental pulp in an area generally corresponding to the damaged tissue and resulting in a laying down of what is known as secondary dentine.
To be fair, most dentists probably don’t see many patients who are eating a specific diet to improve their oral health, and most of the studies and research they read is probably done on people eating a somewhat average diet (high in phytic acid and low in Vitamin D), so it is very logical that they wouldn’t think that teeth could heal. It certainly isn’t common, but with very specific supplements and a very careful nutritional program, it is certainly possible.
How can I stop and reverse Tooth Decay?
You need the presence of enough minerals and also enough fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the diet. Also, take into consideration how bio-available these nutrients are and how well the body is absorbing them. They found that this is largely influenced by the presence of Phytic Acid in the diet.
What does this mean practically in the diet? It is not possible or necessary to eliminate Phytic acid from the diet. What should be considered is taking care to minimize the foods that contain the highest amounts.
Some preparations like soaking and fermenting can reduce the phytic acid content and should be practiced if the foods are going to be consumed, but in many cases, it is better to avoid these foods completely.
Nuts, for instance, have a high phytic acid content which can be greatly reduced by soaking the nuts in salt or lemon water overnight and then rinsing and dehydrating in the oven (the same can be done with beans). While this step is time consuming, it is feasible with things like nuts or beans, but much more intensive with wheat (which contains more phytic acid!)
Grains especially are better soaked, sprouted and fermented, if consumed at all, but this process does not completely eliminate the other harmful properties of grains. Meats, eggs, vegetables, and healthy fats are not on this list of high phytic acid foods. As I’ve mentioned before, these foods contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals are are more nutrient dense anyway.
A balanced diet = healthy teeth
Just remember these factors next time you’re buying groceries and you should be ok, but it’s key to always maintain good dental hygiene, otherwise none of this will help. It’s all about a combination of good oral care and a healthy meal.