In this ‘Rabbit Year’ it might pay to copy rabbits in some of their habits … rabbits love their fruit and veg, not just carrots and lettuce. They have very eclectic tastes, grazing wildly, and so should we. The mouth is often the first place to show signs of vitamin deficiencies. Your dentist can identify oral problems and help to determine whether a vitamin deficiency is the cause. Vitamins function primarily as catalysts for chemical reactions within the body, so a lack of these essential elements can lead to our normal body functions breaking down, making individuals susceptible to disease and other health-related problems.
A lack of complex B vitamins may well lead to problems with your mouth and teeth. The tongue feels swollen and you may experience trouble with swallowing. The inside of the cheek can also be affected; the tissue can be pale and may break apart easily and slough off. A deficiency in folic acid, also in the vitamin B group (B9), can result in a burning sensation in the mouth, especially on the tongue. When there are severe B12 and folic acid deficiencies the body can show other symptoms including numbness, tingling limbs and gastrointestinal problems. Folic acid is also critical to healthy foetal development during early pregnancy.
Meat, milk, nuts and enriched grains are good sources for B vitamins. If you or a family member are concerned that you are not meeting your recommended vitamin requirements, discuss it with your physician or dentist at your next appointment. Eating a balanced diet is the best protection in keeping a strong body and mind and a healthy mouth.
The body only requires vitamins in very, very small amounts, only hundredths of a gram in many cases, so ensuring you ingest sufficient to protect your health should be easy. Here are common sources of complex B vitamins:
- Thiamin (B1) – Pork, liver, whole and enriched grains, legumes, nuts
- Riboflavin (B2) – Milk and milk products, eggs, meats, broccoli, whole and enriched grains
- Niacin (B3) – Protein-rich foods, such as milk, eggs, meat, poultry fish, nuts, whole and enriched grains
- Pyroxidine (B6) – Meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, bananas, enriched grains, legumes
- Folic acid (B9)(also called folate) – Leafy green vegetables, oranges, legumes, broccoli, asparagus, fortified cereals
- Cobalamin (B12) – Fish, meat, poultry, milk and milk products, eggs, fortified cereals
It’s not only the lack of vitamin B that can lead to oral health problems. Insufficient vitamin C can lead to bleeding gums, loose teeth and poor healing, while a lack of vitamin D can cause enamel hypoplasia. What this means is that the teeth have less than the normal amount of enamel and the result is small dents or grooves on the outer surface of the affected tooth. Not only is the surface of the tooth rough, but the defects are often brown or yellow, contrasting unpleasantly with your healthy teeth.
So, if during the next visit to your dentist they remind you to eat more broccoli and strawberries … and carrots – it’s because their first concern is always to ensure your good oral health.