A new review of existing studies points toward a potential role for vitamin D in helping to prevent dental caries. The review, published in the December 2012 issue of Nutrition Reviews, encompassed 24 controlled clinical trials spanning 60 years, from the 1920s to the 1980s, on approximately 3,000 children in several countries. These trials showed that vitamin D was associated with an approximate 50% reduction in the incidence of tooth decay.
While the role of vitamin D in supporting bone health has not been disputed, significant disagreement has historically existed over its role in preventing caries. The AMA and the US National Research Council (NRC) concluded around 1950 that vitamin D was beneficial in managing dental caries. The ADA had said otherwise—based on the same evidence. In 1989, the US NRC, despite new evidence at the time that supported vitamin D’s caries-fighting benefits, called the issue “unresolved.” Current reviews by the Institute of Medicine, the Department of Human Health and Services, and the ADA draw no conclusions on the vitamin D evidence as it relates to dental caries. The clinical trials reviewed in this latest study increased vitamin D levels in children through the use of supplemental UV radiation or by supplementing the children’s diet with cod liver oil or other products containing the vitamin.
The trials were conducted in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Austria, New Zealand, and Sweden, and were conducted in institutional settings, schools, medical and dental practices, or hospitals. The subjects were children or young adults between the ages of 2 and 16 years, with a weighted mean age of 10 years. Vitamin D levels in many populations are decreasing while dental caries levels in young children are increasing. Whether this is more than just a coincidence is open to debate.
The lead author of the review study cautions that one must be careful with the interpretation of this systematic review because the trials reviewed had weaknesses which could have biased the result, and most of the trial participants lived in an era that differs profoundly from the current environment.
(Source: ScienceDaily, November 27, 2012)