Calcium usually comes up as the nutrient that's most important for your teeth, but vitamin D deserves some attention, too. This vitamin works with calcium to build healthy teeth, so you need to make sure you're getting enough so you don't develop cavities and weak enamel. Here's a look at vitamin D's role in dental health, and ways to ensure you're getting enough.
How Vitamin D Builds Healthy Teeth
Vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium, so the calcium can be used to build strong tooth enamel. Without enough vitamin D in your system, calcium will just pass right through your digestive system and out the other end. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that your body is capable of storing extra vitamin D in your fat. Thus, you can go a little while without vitamin D and still have enough to absorb calcium, but eventually, your stores will run out and your dental health may begin to suffer.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get between 600 and 800 International Units of vitamin D each day, regardless of age. There are two main ways to get vitamin D: from food, and through sun exposure. That's right – when you expose your skin to sunlight, your body actually makes vitamin D on its own.
Experts recommend spending 10 – 15 minutes per day outside in the sun to ensure your body is making enough vitamin D. If you have darker skin, you will need to spend closer to 30 minutes per day outside in order to make enough vitamin D. Keep in mind that if you're outside for longer than this, you should apply sunscreen to protect against the risks of sunburns and skin cancer. People who wear sunscreen all of the time may not get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone and should focus on eating vitamin D-rich foods to meet their requirements.
There are only a few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D. These include fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, egg yolks, cheeses, and beef liver. Six ounces of cooked salmon contain 600 IU of vitamin D, which is the amount you should be aiming to eat in a day. Other foods are fortified with vitamin D. These include breakfast cereals, milk, and orange juice. Read the labels to discover how much vitamin D these items contain.
If your dentist