Many decades ago, Dr. Weston Price showed how the shift from traditional foodways to the modern Western diet – with its softer foods and highly refined grains and sugars – resulted not just in more oral disease but a shift from broad, toothy smiles to crooked, misaligned teeth in narrower jaws
Now, a new study in Nutrients highlights one of the specific dietary factors involved in malocclusions (teeth that don’t come together properly): a deficiency of vitamin D3.
D3 is the form of vitamin D that your body makes when your skin is exposed to sunlight and, among other things, works in concert with vitamin K2 to get calcium to where your body needs it (think teeth, bones) and keep it from building up where it shouldn’t (think arteries, soft tissues).
While D3 is also found in a few foods such as oily fish, liver, and egg yolks, and can be taken in supplement form, most of it comes from time in the sun. Considering how many of us spend most of our time indoors, it’s really no surprise that vitamin D deficiency is pretty common these days.
For the current study, 114 adult dental patients had a medical interview, clinical dental exam, and lab work. About 25% said they took D supplements, but in most cases, the doses were low and didn’t include supplemental K2 or calcium.
Nearly half of all participants – 46.5% – were found to have some form of malocclusion. Narrow arches, crowded teeth, and crossbite were common. All of these problems were seen much more frequently in patients with lower D3 levels than in those whose levels were optimal or above optimal.
D3 deficiency was found most often in younger adults and men, as well as those with signs of gum disease, such as deeper periodontal pockets – which makes sense, considering what we already know about vitamin D and periodontal health.
“Moreover,” the authors of the current study wrote,
32.6% of patients with vitamin D deficiency presented for orthodontic treatment, which was a much larger group than that of nondeficit patients. Angle’s Class I, i.e., in the absence of a skeletal defect, was mainly accompanied by an optimal or excessive level of this hormone. The proper concentration of vitamin D3 in the body therefore promotes the proper development of facial bones.
Of course, as the authors go on to note, D3 is hardly the only factor that drives jaw development. The overall diet matters, too. Other common influences from childhood include bottle- instead of breastfeeding, pacifier use, and oral habits such as mouth breathing and thumbsucking.
On the upside, malocclusion is something that can be corrected. The ideal, though, is to prevent such problems from arising in the first place – not just with respect to the bite but, of course, the health of the teeth, gums, and other oral structures, as well. As they say, the best dentistry is the least dentistry.