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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Congratulations on your pregnancy! During this period, you're doing everything you can to take care of yourself and your baby -- and that includes eating well and taking prenatal vitamins. Folic acid, iron and calcium will be increased to keep you healthy and aid in your baby's development. But there are some lesser-known vitamins that also deserve special attention during this time -- most notably, vitamin D.

Getting enough vitamin D is an important part of your pregnancy. Vitamin D absorbs calcium, a mineral used to strengthen our bones and teeth. Without calcium, you're more susceptible to osteoporosis, cavities and periodontal disease, among other medical and dental problems. When you don't get the proper amount of calcium during pregnancy, your baby will start taking it from your bones. Expectant mothers need vitamin D to help absorb enough calcium for themselves as well as their unborn babies.

Making the Connection

Just as calcium and vitamin D are needed for healthy bones, they are also necessary for your baby's oral health. Teeth start to form in utero, so dental problems can start before they even erupt. It's long been known that calcium helps strengthen a fetus' teeth during the development process, but now scientists have discovered a link between prenatal vitamin D and tooth decay.

A recent study indicates that children born to mothers with inadequate vitamin D levels had a greater chance of developing early childhood dental caries. During the study, the vitamin D levels of 206 pregnant women were analyzed during their second trimester. Only 10.5 percent of the women had adequate levels of vitamin D. Researchers then followed up on 135 of these infants at 16 months of age. Of the children born to women with lower levels of vitamin D, 21.6 percent of them had enamel defects, which leave teeth more susceptible to dental cavities. Tooth decay was found in 33.6 percent of the children born to women with the lowest levels of vitamin D.

The results of this study raise concerns in the dental health community, and although further research is needed, it may mean expectant mothers need to increase their vitamin D intake to help prevent childhood dental problems.

Vitamin D Deficiencies -- the Fallout

You may be thinking, "With all I have to consider regarding my baby's health, why worry about a few teeth that are going to fall out anyway?" Primary teeth are important to a child's development -- besides helping them chew and speak, baby teeth pave the way for children's permanent teeth to erupt and are important for their self-esteem. Unfortunately, dental caries are a childhood epidemic, but excellent prenatal care can help prevent your child's chances of developing dental problems later in life.

Whether you're pregnant or not, you should be getting the proper amount of vitamin D and calcium on a daily basis. Experts believe pregnant women should take 5 mcg of vitamin D daily, which is equivalent to 2-3 cups of vitamin-fortified milk. One of the amazing things about vitamin D is your skin absorbs it from sunlight, and just being out in the sun 15 minutes a day can provide you with an ample amount!

An Excellent Indication

As the research indicates, vitamin D may affect children's dental health long before they're born! If you're expecting, speak with your dentist about your diet and nutritional supplements, and visit your dentist regularly for a dental checkup. Taking the time to care for yourself could increase your baby's chances for a longer, healthier life!

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