Vitamins D3 & K2 : Two Key – & Sometimes Overlooked – Nutrients for a Healthy Smile
Yes, we make a big deal about gum disease. There are good reasons why. Most Americans have it to one degree or another. It raises your risk of heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline, and other systemic health problems.
Oh, and it’s the leading cause of adult tooth loss.
Simply put, healthy teeth need healthy gums and bone for support. So that means flossing to clean between your teeth and at your gum line. (Interproximal brushes and oral irrigators can do the job, as well.) It also means eating right, getting enough sleep and physical activity. It means not using tobacco or vaping – or quitting if you do.
And, of course, it means getting the nutrients your gums need to stay healthy, not the least of which is vitamin C, crucial for keeping the connective tissues in your gums healthy and strong. But it’s hardly the only player when it comes to supporting periodontal health.
Vitamin D Helps You Absorb Calcium & Reduces Inflammation
Another important nutrient is vitamin D. One of the many things it does is help your body absorb calcium, which is why it’s been added to milk for over 100 years. Your teeth benefit from calcium, as well as your bones. That includes the jawbones into which your teeth are set.
But vitamin D has also been shown to reduce inflammation, a hallmark of gum disease. Over the years, science has shown that maintaining good D levels can lower the risk of both gingivitis (early stage gum disease) and chronic periodontitis (severe gum disease). As the authors of one 2018 paper noted,
An analysis of the literature shows that vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining healthy periodontal and jaw bone tissues, alleviating inflammation processes, stimulating post-operative healing of periodontal tissues and the recovery of clinical parameters.
Unlike most other vitamins, though, D doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of the foods we eat. Eggs contain some, as do mushrooms and certain types of fatty fish. Most of what we get, though, comes from being in the sun. Its ultraviolet rays turn a cholesterol precursor in your skin, 7-Dehydrocholesterol, into cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3.
D3 is the preferred form of the nutrient. It’s absorbed faster and is more effective than the D2 found in plants and typically used to fortify milk and other foods.
How much sun exposure you need to keep your D levels in good shape depends on a few things, such as where you live and how dark or light your complexion is. If you’re fair-skinned, a few minutes a day can be enough. If your skin is darker, you’ll need more.
Apps like dminder can help you know how much sun time you need. There are also a number of D calculators online, but we find this one – homely as it is – to be the best of the bunch.
While getting your D3 the natural way is ideal, supplementation is an option, of course. If you’ve got active gum disease, supplementation is usually recommended. We can talk with you about the best dosage for your specific needs at your next exam and cleaning with us.
Getting Even More Out of D3 with Vitamin K2
Another nutrient can help you get even more benefit from vitamin D, though. That’s vitamin K2.
K1 is the form of the vitamin that we get mainly from plants – especially dark leafy greens but also broccoli, green beans, kiwi, and many others. K2 is found in some animal foods, such as liver and cheese, but it’s also something that you can produce in your own gut, with the help of friendly bacteria.
So adding probiotics – either supplements or probiotic foods (think yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and such) – to your daily routine is one way you can go about getting enough K2 for your needs. It can be taken in supplement form, as well.
And combined with vitamin D3, it can have a profound effect on your oral – and whole body – health.
For vitamin K2 activates osteocalcin, a protein hormone that’s produced by specialized cells called osteoblasts. These are the cells from which bone develops. Osteocalcin helps get the calcium that D3 has helped you absorb into your bones. Just as important, it keeps the calcium from depositing in your arteries or other organs.
Again, since your teeth are rooted in your jawbones, keeping that bone healthy is crucial. One of the most devastating things about gum disease is that, as it progresses, it destroys that supportive bone. If the disease goes unaddressed, the teeth will eventually loosen in their sockets and ultimately fall out – if they’re not recommended for extraction before then.
So, yes. Gum disease is a big deal. A very big deal. But you have the power to reverse it – especially through better oral hygiene and nutrition plus periodontal therapy. We’re here to help you make the most of that power so you can keep your smile healthy and attractive for a lifetime.