A healthy smile is dependent on several factors including strong bones and teeth, adequate blood supply to the developing and mature gums and teeth, healthy gums, and a balance between acid and alkaline in the mouth.
Nutrition and Gum and Tooth Disorders
The cells that line the mouth have a short lifespan and require a constant supply of nutrients for normal repair and replacement. Consequently, symptoms of a vitamin or mineral deficiency often will develop more quickly in the mouth than in other tissues. The hard structures in the mouth, the bones and teeth, are blueprints for dietary intake of calcium and other minerals. Dietary habits and intake of other nutrients, such as starch and sugars, also are determining factors in the maintenance or loss of a healthy smile.
The incidence of tooth decay is strongly influenced by dietary intake during tooth development. Periodontal diseases-diseases of the gums-also have nutritional components.
Tooth decay is the most common long-term disease in the United States. People in primitive cultures living in remote areas of the world far from "civilized" cultures have little or no problem with tooth decay; however, the incidence of tooth decay increases upon exposure to modernized cultures and dietary habits. Tooth decay is most likely to develop with frequent consumption of sugary foods, especially if the food sticks to the teeth or if the sugary foods are eaten alone. The effects of sugar consumption on tooth decay are most pronounced during infancy and childhood when the teeth are developing. Certain vitamins and minerals, however, can help strengthen the tooth and gum structure and aid in the prevention of tooth decay or periodontal disease.
VITAMIN A. Vitamin A is important in tooth formation and in the proper spacing of teeth. However, no evidence exists that vitamin A functions in the prevention of tooth decay.
VITAMIN D. A major function of vitamin D is in the regulation and use of calcium and phosphorus. The vitamin also aids in the formation and maintenance of normal teeth and bones, including the bones of the jaw.
VITAMIN E. It has been proposed that the mercury in silver amalgam dental fillings leaches out of the tooth and poses a potential health hazard, including increased risk for nerve and brain damage. The amount of mercury lost from dental fillings is extremely small and probably is not a problem to health; however, if this source of mercury is a concern, adequate intake of vitamin E would help protect the body against the toxic effects of this metal.
VITAMIN B2. Early symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include burning and soreness of the mouth, lips, and tongue and cracks at the comers of the mouth. The lining of the mouth becomes inflamed in advanced stages of vitamin B2 deficiency. These symptoms are reversed when intake of vitamin B2 or vitamin B2-rich foods is increased.
VITAMIN B12 AND FOLIC ACID Vitamin B12 and folic acid are essential for the normal repair and replacement of cells. A deficiency of these B vitamins causes cells to form improperly. One of the first areas affected are the cells that line the mouth and tongue, causing soreness and deterioration of these surfaces. These symptoms are reversed with increased intakes of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
VITAMIN C. Vitamin C is required for the normal formation of the connective tissue that holds together the gums, and other structures in the mouth. Some of the symptoms of scurvy or vitamin C deficiency are bleeding gums, deteriorati