In recent years, we have been bombarded with information warning us about the dangers of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation in terms of skin cancer, but it turns out that many of us may be suffering from the opposite problem: underexposure, and that may be very bad for your teeth.
Vitamin D, Sun Exposure, and Your Teeth
The link between sun exposure and the health of your teeth is vitamin D. Vitamin D is the only major nutrient your body produces for itself, and it needs sunlight to do it. A cholesterol in your skin is changed by exposure to ultraviolet radiation B (UVB) into a previtamin that is then taken to your liver where it is processed into a form of vitamin D, although it’s not ready for use until after it’s gone through your kidneys.
Vitamin D is great cavity prevention for your teeth because it’s crucial in the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium, the primary element in your teeth. It’s also the primary element in your bones, which support your teeth. Vitamin D is also important because it helps your body combat oral bacteria while controlling your body’s inflammatory response that contributes to tooth loss as a result of gum disease.
Vitamin D shortage is associated with increased risk of cavities and tooth loss, and it’s so important that a pregnant woman’s vitamin D levels can impact the cavity risk for her unborn child. Unfortunately, maybe 50% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency.
How Much Sun Do You Need?
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of sun exposure to make sure you’re producing enough vitamin D for your body’s optimal health. You need between 10 and 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm three times a week to produce enough vitamin D. However, you may need more if:
- You expose less skin (that figure was for shorts and a tanktop)
- You have darker skin (people with fair skin produce more vitamin D)
- It’s winter (summer sun is more intense)
Unfortunately, even 10 minutes of sun can seem like too much time to spend outside during the hot summers in Las Vegas (good news, it’s not supposed to break 100 on Sunday! Bad news, it’ll be rainy, though there may still be good UVB).
Other Ways to Get Vitamin D
However, if you can’t get out to get sun exposure, there are other ways to get vitamin D. You can include vitamin D in your diet. Your best bet is fatty fish like salmon, which can contain high levels of vitamin D. You can also drink milk, which is fortified with vitamin D. Beef livers are also good sources of vitamin D, as are egg yolks.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get enough through your diet to completely make up for low sun exposure, so if you’re not getting enough sun, a vitamin D supplement may be recommended.