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Fighting Dental Caries in Kids: Could Vitamin D Be the Secret Weapon?

Donna M. Rounsaville, RDH,BS

Dental caries continues to be a prominent disease in children. According to Nutrition Reviews, past research studies have shown that dental caries in children can be reduced by up to 50 percent by increasing intake of Vitamin D. Recently these existing studies on dental caries reduction have been reexamined and show promise for the control of early childhood caries. These results indicate that Vitamin D could be a secret weapon in the battle against cavities in childhood and beyond.

Vitamin D most notably increases bone health and helps to prevent osteoporosis. It facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphate through the intestines. According to an article in the Journal of Nutrition by G. Wolf, Adolf Windaus discovered the vitamin in sterols of fatty tissue of animals and in plants in 1928. At the time, it was understood that certain dietary deficiencies could lead to diseases such as rickets and scurvy. The recognition that Vitamin D could help with common childhood ailments evolved to the connection with dental caries. Relating to oral health, at least 20 studies were done after the discovery of Vitamin D.

The studies were preformed in North America, Europe and Asia, with the most recent one concluding in 1989. These studies or controlled clinical trials, were performed in various ways and included approximately 3,000 children. The results were promising; however, contradictory interpretation between the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association as well as the US National Research Council caused these earlier results to be dismissed and categorized as "unresolved."

Feeling that the results were promising despite the flaws and varying methodologies, Dr. Philippe Hujoel, at the University of Washington, began a systematic examination of available data from the previous studies and compared them with populations who did not supplement with Vitamin D. The results were highlighted in a recent edition of Dental Nursing and quote the observations of Dr. Michael Holick, a Professor of Medicine at Boston University Medical Center. He stated: "the findings from the University of Washington reaffirm the importance of Vitamin[sic] D for dental health."

According to this systemic review, the benefits of Vitamin D introduced in childhood include the following:

  • Improved tooth development
  • Better formation of dentin with lifetime effects
  • A topical protection similar to fluoride
  • Changes in the amount and components of saliva that enhanced enamel strength
  • Enhanced whole body immunity

The review also revealed a decrease in caries by up to 47 percent when Vitamin D supplementation was introduced. Also, recent studies looking at tooth development in utero and the effects of deficiencies in Vitamin D, recognized a link to enamel hyperplasia in children. Simply increasing Vitamin D during pregnancy and early childhood could give kids a better chance of fewer cavities and stronger bones.

There was no difference found in the type of exposure, whether from ultraviolet (UV) light, or with the supplements of Vitamin D2 or Vitamin D3. Additionally, looking at the results retrospectively revealed that the effects of Vitamin D supplementation were ineffective after the age of 13, especially in girls. This could be attributed to changes in the body during growth that included increased body fat that reduced the effect of this fat-soluble vitamin.

Revisiting these past studies has reaffirmed the importance of Vitamin D in oral health. These studies have shown with some certainty that Vitamin D can have a caries-reducing effect in children.

Learn more about improving oral health in children in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: N/A

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