Periodontitis, or inflammation and infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth, is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. Once it occurs, the damage is irreversible, but a new study has found that vitamin D may help prevent periodontitis, particularly in patients with diabetes mellitus.


Periodontitis is a extremely common illness, second only to the common cold in its frequency. It is found in more than one third of Americans over the age of 30 and is particularly common in people with diabetes. (Diabetics are more prone to infections.)


The disease is caused when plaque stays on the teeth for a number of days and hardens into tartar, which then attracts bacteria and leads to swelling, infection or gingivitis. Initially, these symptoms would cause only minor discomfort and could be alleviated with a dental cleaning to remove the tartar. But ongoing inflammation can cause pockets to form between the teeth and gums, which then attract more bacteria and can lead to loss of tissue and bone. This damage is called periodontitis and cannot be reversed with cleaning. Eventually, the damage could result in tooth loss.


In a study led by researchers from the University in Chengdu, China, researchers found that vitamin D may help protect against periodontitis in people with diabetes mellitus. The study, published in Steroids, found that diabetic mice that were given supplemental doses of vitamin D showed less bone loss and inflammation related to periodontitis than those who were given a placebo.  


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