People who don’t get enough vitamin D — either through sunlight or from their diet — have a higher incidence of periodontal disease than those with adequate vitamin D intakes, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Study.

Researchers analyzed data on periodontal attachment loss and blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D3, a biomarker indicating vitamin D levels accumulated from diet and exposure to sunlight, in 11,202 men and women aged 20 or older who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 

Eighty percent of those in the study had lower-than-desired vitamin D levels. And the scientists found that the higher the levels of blood serum vitamin D, the better their periodontal health. The researchers suspect that vitamin D cuts down on the inflammatory response that leads to periodontal disease. More studies are needed to confirm the link, but these findings do suggest that vitamin D plays a role in oral health.

The study was funded in part by the Agricultural Research Service and was conducted by Bess Dawson-Hughes, a physician specializing in bone health and nutrition. Dawson-Hughes is the director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.

Agricultural Research Service