Did you know that the foods you eat and how much time you spend in the sun may have the ability to affect your dental implants? Although it sounds odd at first, there is a perfectly good explanation. Certain foods, like fatty fish and dairy products, as well as sunlight are all sources of vitamin D. Believe it or not, vitamin D can actually help the healing process when recovering from having dental implants placed.
This is because vitamin D is associated with new bone growth, as well as the maintenance of existing bone. In fact, the body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus from foods during the digestion process. Without vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are unable to be absorbed. This means that without vitamin D, new bone growth is not possible and existing bone may begin to decline.
Vitamin D is supplied to the body primarily through sunlight, but can also be supplied through diet and supplements. Unfortunately, an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information database notes that as many as 41.6% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. People who are overweight or over the age of 65, have darker skin, or who spend little time outdoors are at an elevated risk of not getting enough vitamin D.
However, many people don’t realize that they are deficient because the symptoms of a deficiency are either not present or mistaken for other health conditions. Some indicators of a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Hair and bone loss
- Muscle and bone pain
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Being sick frequently
Luckily, a visit to your primary care doctor and a simple blood test is all you need to determine if you are lacking vitamin D. Then, your doctor will likely recommend an affordable, over the counter supplement to correct the deficiency. While your exact needs may vary, the general recommendation is to get 600 IU of vitamin D daily. If you are over the age of 70, this goes up to 800 IU daily.
In terms of dental implants, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to reduced bone growth. After your implants are placed, they will need to osseointegrate, or fuse with the surrounding bone. This can only be accomplished through the growth of new bone. Having a deficiency limits the amount of new bone that can be produced, which can cause the recovery process to be slow at best. It can also mean that not enough new bone is produced, which can lead to implant failure.
Conversely, having adequate amounts of vitamin D means that your body is able to absorb all the calcium and phosphorus it needs to grow new bone and fuse the implant in place. Additionally, vitamin D also acts as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. This means that it reduces the risk of postoperative infection and gum disease. This promotes faster healing with less complications.
As you can see, there is an important link between vitamin D and dental implants. Having a vitamin D deficiency can cause certain complications that can be avoided simply by making sure you have enough vitamin D. Therefore, you should speak with your implant dentist and primary care physician to make sure you are in the best condition possible for your implant procedure.
Dr. Gerard J. Lemongello Jr. graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has been in private practice since 1987. His focus is on cosmetic and comprehensive restorative rehabilitative dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry, and is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.