Chicago -- Beginning in 2007, daylight savings time will be extended byalmost a month. This additional amount of daylight may also help extendthe life and health of people's teeth and bones. That's because vitaminD, also known as the "sunshine vitamin," is made by the body throughcasual and minimal sun exposure. Vitamin D is just as essential ascalcium for healthy teeth and bones according to a paper that waspublished in the September issue of the Journal of Periodontology.
"Both vitamin D and calcium counteract deficiencies and reduce boneresorption," said Dr. Charles Hildebolt, Department of Radiology,Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. "Numerousstudies indicate that vitamin D and calcium deficiencies result in boneloss and increased inflammation. Inflammation is a well recognizedsymptom of periodontal diseases, which is why it has been suggestedthat calcium and vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor forperiodontal diseases."
Research shows that the best means of obtaining the requiredamount of vitamin D is from sunshine. According to the NationalInstitutes of Health, season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloudcover, smog and sunscreen affect ultraviolet ray exposure and vitamin Dsynthesis. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure at least two times perweek to the face, arms, hands or back is usually sufficient to provideadequate vitamin D. People who live in an area with limited sunexposure may want to eat foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk,eggs, sardines and tuna fish.
"We are not encouraging people to forego their sun protection, nor tospend prolonged periods of time in the sun" said Vincent J. Iacono, DMDand president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "According tothe American Academy of Dermatology, there is no such thing as a totalUV block. Even the most effective sunscreens currently on the marketlet 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. A number ofinfectious diseases have been linked with low levels of vitamin D, andit has been demonstrated that vitamin D can suppress proinflammatorycytokine production. (Proinflammatory cytokines are molecules that havedestructive effects throughout the body.)
"Periodontal disease increases the production of cytokines, but it hasbeen demonstrated that vitamin D can suppress cytokine production, andpossibly decrease the risk of periodontal disease," explains Hildebolt.
"Further research is needed to define the health risks associated withinadequate levels of vitamin D and calcium intake and how they affectperiodontal diseases," said Iacono. "Until we have further information,it is prudent for patients to talk to their healthcare providers aboutthe possibility of taking vitamin D and calcium supplements."
The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member associationof dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis andtreatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures ofthe teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants.Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by theAmerican Dental Association.
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