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Monday, 18 September 2017 09:38

Could sunlight affect your patients’ teeth?

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As you know, sunshine is our main source of vitamin D – a mineral that is used by the body to help absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, and keep our bones and muscles healthy.

Interestingly, vitamin D has also been linked to periodontal health, with studies suggesting that lower levels could result in periodontitis and increase the risk of tooth loss. As such, supplementation could potentially reduce the severity of periodontal disease if used at a dose higher than 800-1,000 IU daily. There are also its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to consider. According to research, the vitamin has the ability to inhibit the body’s inflammatory response through the suppression of cytokine production (molecules that can have destructive effects throughout the body) and stimulation of monocytes and macrophages that secrete peptides with a strong antimicrobial effect.

As it stands, there is no definitive answer on how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D, mostly because there are too many varying factors to take into consideration, but what we do know is that there is a limit to what is deemed a ‘safe’ amount. After all, it is well documented that over exposure, especially without sun protection can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Fortunately, vitamin D can also be found naturally in a small number of foods, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as eggs and red meat, which further reinforces the importance of a healthy, balanced diet. To help ensure that Britons receive this vital nutrient, a number of other foods have been fortified in recent years to include vitamin D, for instance margarine, non-dairy milk alternatives, infant formula milk and some brands of cereals and yoghurts.

Despite this, around 30-40 per cent of the UK population is thought to have a vitamin D deficiency during the wintertime. This could have huge ramifications for the dental profession and periodontal diagnosis, planning and the delivery of patient care. To identify whether your patients are suffering from low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’, it might be worth implementing an additional screening process in line with suggested guidelines – or referring a suspected case to a general practitioner (GP) if facilities are not in place to screen in the practice. In the event a problem is identified, the correct treatment can then be administered by a prescribing GP, which could in turn help to improve periodontal health.

At the very least, be sure to ask your patients questions pertaining to their sun exposure and dietary intake when they visit the practice, taking care to check for any past supplements or medications that might have been used to treat a previous vitamin D deficiency. It also can’t hurt to remind your patients about the importance of an effective daily oral care regimen, so take the opportunity to recommend suitable products such as the CPS perio range of interdental brushes by Curaprox. 

Summer may be over, but by taking a holistic approach you could help protect your patients’ oral health from the effects of vitamin D deficiency in the coming winter months.  


Author Howard Thomas

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