Did you know that Florida experiences an average of 250 days of sunshine a year? For decades, people looking to soak up the rays have been known to flock to the sunshine state for vacation, to raise a family, or possibly to retire. The weather is one of the largest draws for many, providing an array of outdoor opportunities which create a relaxed, casual, “beachy” feel. But the environment isn’t the only perk associated with the sun. Recent research actually suggests that the sun could be linked to lower rates of tooth decay in children.
The Science Daily article, “Vitamin D Linked to Lower Rates of Tooth Decay,” claims that the research is not new but has been recently reviewed and legitimized. The December issue of Nutrition Reviews featured an article exploring 24 controlled clinical trials completed between the 1920’s and 1980’s involving some 3,000 kids around the globe. Through this research, scientists were able to conclude that vitamin D is associated with a nearly 50% reduction in the incidence of tooth decay. Dr. Philippe Hujoel of the University of Washington led the review and stated that his main goal was to revisit the vitamin D question which has been posed for years. In the early 1950’s, the American Medical Association and the U.S. National Research Council both concluded that the vitamin, commonly found in cod liver oil and through sun exposure, is beneficial in managing dental caries (or cavities). The American Dental Association disagreed and the topic was deemed “unresolved” in 1989. The clinical trials were conducted in the United States, Great Britain, Austria, New Zealand, Canada, and Sweden and included children between the ages of 2 and 16. After reexamining the data, current researchers are drawing the same conclusions; that children with vitamin D deficiencies have poor and delayed teeth eruption and are prone to dental cavities.
The current dental crisis in the United States only seems to support the vitamin D argument. While tooth decay is on the rise among the children of the nation, vitamin
D levels seem to be decreasing in several populations. While Dr. Hujoel agrees with the study findings, he also notes that caution should be used when interpreting the results. The largest factor, he claims, is that the participants in the trials lived in an era that “differs profoundly from today’s environment.” Regardless of which side you believe, vitamin D is known to support bone growth and maintenance and should be included in the diet of all men, women, and especially children. If tooth decay concerns you and you feel that vitamin D may not provide the necessary amount of protection, discuss other preventative options with your dentist. Sealants and fluoride treatments are some of the more common procedures available and are designed to prevent tooth decay, particularly among children. And as always, practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day, flossing, and visiting your dentist every 6 months.