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Dental care and nutrition

Our resident nutritionist, Magdalena Marvell returns to talk about the importance of understanding diet and nutrition.

Making mindful food choices and adopting healthy eating habits plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay, gum disease and promoting healthy teeth formation and development. 
 
For example observing our children losing multiple milk teeth simultaneously during the summer, while experiencing little change during the winter, can be scientifically explained.
 
This phenomenon is closely linked to Vitamin D3 production, which primarily occurs during sun exposure. Vitamin D3, functioning as a hormone-like vitamin, plays a pivotal role in facilitating calcium absorption, ultimately leading to the formation and development of new teeth1. When we spend more time under the sun’s rays during the summer months, this increased Vitamin D3 production promotes the growth of new teeth, subsequently pushing out the old ones!
 
There is a dynamic relationship between diet and nutrition on one hand and oral health on the other. The well-being of the tissues within the mouth is influenced by diet and nutrition, and conversely, the state of oral health can impact the nutrients we consume. Consuming sugars has been linked to an elevated risk of developing dental cavities (caries).
 
Understanding the connection between diet and nutrition and the intricate nature of periodontal disease remains a challenge. Frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages is associated with an increased risk of tooth erosion. Vitamin D3 is not your typical vitamin; it’s actually a hormone that plays a significant role in maintaining your overall health. It exerts a profound influence on various organs and tissues within the body.
 
Interestingly, when it comes to fortifying your teeth, this fat-soluble hormone proves indispensable. Vitamin D3 assists in the absorption of calcium, effectively balancing mineral levels in the body. These processes are crucial for both bone and teeth formation and repair. Moreover, they contribute to the preservation of dental structure, which can last a lifetime with proper care.
 
However, it’s important to note that more than half of the global population is deficient in vitamin D3. Why is this the case?
 
One primary reason is that people nowadays have reduced exposure to sunlight, either due to spending extended periods indoors or relying on sunscreen for protection. This deficiency in sunlight exposure can hinder the body’s natural production of vitamin D3, affecting not only overall health but also the well-being of your teeth. Excessive phytic acid consumption can influence the absorption of vitamin D2. Phytic acid, or phytates, is the stored form of phosphorus found in seeds, nuts, legumes, and unprocessed whole grains (concentrated in the outer bran layers).
 
Calcium is a mineral abundantly present in various foods and is crucial for the formation and upkeep of strong bones and teeth. Hydroxyapatite, the primary calcium phosphate mineral in both bone and enamel, relies on dietary calcium. This mineral is absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream through sources like human or animal milk, dairy products (such as cheese and yogurt), or calcium-fortified foods.
 
On average, British men typically ingest 1007 mg of calcium per day, whereas the average intake for British women is approximately 777 mg daily, as reported by Henderson et al. However, there are noteworthy concerns regarding calcium intake within specific segments of the population.
 
For instance, a significant proportion of teenage boys and girls, as well as women aged 19 to 24 years, fall short of meeting the lower reference nutrient intake (LRNI) for calcium, suggesting that their calcium intakes are likely insufficient3.
 
The market also offers numerous plant-based milk alternatives, including soy, almond, oats, nuts, potato, flaxseed, or hemp-based products, often fortified with nutrients, including calcium. However, it’s essential to note that national health and nutrition organisations recommend against the use of plant-based milk/non-dairy beverages for infants aged 0-12 months and advise against unsweetened plant milk/non-dairy beverages, except for soy milk, as a sole replacement for dairy milk4.
 
While most individuals are familiar with the concept of the gut microbiome, the existence of the oral microbiome, a crucial component within saliva, remains relatively unknown. Numerous studies have indicated that individuals with higher levels of inorganic components, such as calcium phosphate and an acidic pH, are at an increased risk of developing gum disease.
 
Probiotics have the potential to elevate the concentration of organic compounds in saliva, thereby mitigating the presence of inorganic compounds and offering several benefits, including: Improved breath freshness, reduction in symptoms associated with gingivitis, alleviation of inflammation and lowered risk of oral cancer.
 
Numerous studies have explored potential connections between poor oral health and Alzheimer’s disease5.
 
Our mouths are home to around 700 different types of bacteria, including some that can give us gum disease. A recent study led by researchers from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests that these bacteria linked to gum problems might also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and related memory issues, especially vascular dementia6.
 
This discovery was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists have also found that bacteria species known as Porphyromonas gingivalis can migrate from the mouth to the brain. Once inside the brain, these bacteria release enzymes called gingipains, which have the capacity to harm nerve cells7. This nerve cell damage can contribute to memory loss and, potentially, the development of Alzheimer’s disease over time.
 
When using oral probiotics, it is essential to follow a regimen similar to that of gut probiotics.
 
Vitamin K2 is less common in the diet compared to vitamin K1, but it can still be found in various food sources, particularly fermented foods. Pairing vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 enhances calcium absorption and its targeted distribution in the body. While vitamin D3 aids in calcium absorption, vitamin K2 plays a pivotal role in directing calcium to its appropriate destinations.
 
Furthermore, K2 is vital for triggering the production of osteocalcin, a key protein essential for the formation of dentin matrix, contributing significantly to growth and repair processes in our teeth8. Vitamin K2 can be found in meat particularly liver and certain organ meats, eggs especially the yolks, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, fermented soy products like miso and tempeh, chicken – dark meat, such as chicken thighs and legs, contains higher levels of K2 compared to white meat, fish: oily fish like salmon also contain small amounts of vitamin K2.
 
Magnesium is also crucial for both the development of strong teeth’s structure and facilitating the effective absorption of calcium9. However, it’s important to note that an excessive intake of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus can lead to a depletion of magnesium levels in the body, potentially impeding the remineralisation process. To ensure a balanced approach, it’s advisable to consume these supplements in equal proportions.
 
Similar to vitamin D, many individuals often have insufficient magnesium levels in their bodies. Consequently, it’s advisable to increase your dietary intake of magnesium. A daily intake of up to 400 milligrams of magnesium, in conjunction with the aforementioned nutrients, is recommended for maintaining overall dental and skeletal health. Foods that are relatively high in magnesium (Mg) include: almonds, spinach, cashew nuts, dark chocolate, avocados, bananas, legumes, pumpkin seeds, oats and quinoa. 
 
References
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