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Vitamin D Deficiency During Pregnancy Linked with Toddler Cavities

by Katlyn Joy | April 24, 2014 7:57 AM
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A Canadian study published online in Pediatrics finds a strong link between low vitamin D levels in pregnant women and cavities in their children during the toddler years.

The study was conducted at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and was headed by lead researcher, Dr. Robert J. Schroth. The question the researchers set out to answer was whether women who had a Vitamin D deficiency would have children with more cavities.

Evidence that Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in offspring's dental health has been shown in previous studies. Those studies found that in such groups defects in tooth enamel have started in utero and those defects give rise to cavities by the toddler years.

Researchers looked at 207 women who were pregnant at the time in this study, and then followed up with their 135 children. The study drew women from an area considered urban and economically disadvantaged. The women were generally teens to age 24. Women were given a blood test to check Vitamin D levels and given a prenatal questionnaire. The children were given dental examinations at age 1, and parents were given a questionnaire to complete during the exam.

Of the women, about 33 percent had deficient levels of the vitamin. The rest were in the normal range. Of the children, 23-36 percent had cavities, and the range indicates the different criteria used to determine whether the teeth had cavities.

Researchers noted a direct connection between moms with the lowest Vitamin D levels and the children with the higher number of cavities. Defects in tooth enamel linked linked to dental carries were also found in toddlers.

According to researchers, "Prevention efforts should begin during pregnancy by bolstering maternal nutrition, either through improved dietary intake or supplementation with vitamin D."

The researchers believe nutrition to be a vital way to impact dental health in children, as tooth formation and therefore dental health begins before a baby is even born.

Should women be given vitamin supplements to prevent such problems? The answer isn't clear, as it depends on who is asked.

Dr. Philippe P. Hujoel, a professor from the University of Washington School of Dentistry in Seattle stresses other methods to prevent dental cavities.

"In place of supplementation, I would recommend maintaining proper vitamin D levels during pregnancy the natural way - enjoy the sun, choose foods such as wild salmon, ahi tuna, mushrooms and eggs. Additionally, reducing carbohydrate intake will reduce the body's need for vitamin D," he explained.

He also suggested, "Avoid sugar. It is a necessary fuel for dental cavities and it burns up vitamin D."

However, the Vitamin D Council recommends 5000 to 6000 IUs a day of the vitamin, while the Food and Nutrition Board recommends 600 IUs a day. A recent study from the University of South Carolina found that pregnant women should get 4000 IUs daily to ensure baby has correct level of the vitamin at birth.

Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy is not only linked to dental health in babies, but also to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and bacterial vaginosis. Women with low Vitamin D levels are also more likely to give birth to a child small for gestational age.

Getting sunlight is another way to get Vitamin D, but the American Academy of Pediatricians warns parents to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun. Additionally, pregnant women need to limit their sun exposure to prevent skin cancers.

Knowing how much sun to get is tricky. Your melanin level is the determining factor. If you are very light skinned, fair-haired and with light eyes, you may only need 15 minutes to get the D you need from sunlight. An African American may need up to 2 hours to get that level.

Besides sun exposure, you can get Vitamin D from foods such as fortified cereals, fortified milk and orange juice, egg yolks, beef liver, and egg yolks.

Talk to your ob-gyn or medical caregiver about taking Vitamin D. Another good option is to speak to a registered dietician or nutritionist about your diet and your nutritional needs while pregnant or breastfeeding.


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