A new report highlights the fact that vitamin D, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, is just as essential in the fight against oral diseases as calcium.
Although the report, which is published in the September issue of the Journal of Periodontology, highlights that limited exposure to the sun twice a week could help the body to product enough vitamin D to help maintain oral health, taking supplements or upping dietary intake of foods with a high vitamin D content, such as milk, eggs, sardines and tuna fish, could be beneficial.
"Both vitamin D and calcium counteract deficiencies and reduce bone resorption," said Dr. Charles Hildebolt, Department of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
"Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D and calcium deficiencies result in bone loss and increased inflammation. Inflammation is a well recognized symptom of periodontal diseases, which is why it has been suggested that calcium and vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for periodontal diseases."
However, the report states that ten to 15 minutes sun exposure two times a week, could also be a means of producing natural vitamin D in the body - a recommendation that is controversial with dermatologists battling to reduce skin cancers.
"We are not encouraging people to forego their sun protection, nor to spend prolonged periods of time in the sun," said Vincent Iacono, DMD and president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
"According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is no such thing as a total UV block. Even the most effective sunscreens currently on the market let through enough UV to allow for adequate vitamin D formation."
Periodontal diseases are bacterial infections that, if left untreated, may cause damage to the bone and even tooth loss. But perhaps even more serious, a number of infectious diseases have been linked with low levels of vitamin D, and it has been demonstrated that vitamin D can suppress proinflammatory cytokine production.
"Periodontal disease increases the production of cytokines, but it has been demonstrated that vitamin D can suppress cytokine production, and possibly decrease the risk of periodontal disease," explained Hildebolt.
"Further research is needed to define the health risks associated with inadequate levels of vitamin D and calcium intake and how they affect periodontal diseases," said Iacono. "Until we have further information, it is prudent for patients to talk to their healthcare providers about the possibility of taking vitamin D and calcium supplements."
There are currently a number of oral care products on the US market that include vitamin D, but these tend to be niche or specialist and aimed at the upper end of the mass market. Those products include Sea Fresh Toothpaste by Jason Natural Cosmetics, Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss and Vicco Herbal Toothpaste.