Vitamin D is vital for your teeth and bones, and it’s a unique nutrient because it’s the only one that your body can manufacture. In order to make vitamin D, your body needs to be exposed to sunlight, whose ultraviolet rays carry the energy necessary for your body to produce vitamin D.
Now research shows that the consequences of vitamin D shortage can leave a permanent defect in your teeth, one that is visible for centuries after your death.
Researchers used this defect to start to explore the history of rickets.
Why Teeth Are the Perfect Record of Rickets
If you don’t have enough vitamin D, a condition known as rickets, your body has difficulty building and restoring bones and teeth. Historically, looking at rickets prevalence can tell us a lot about how people lived, such as when people might not be able to get sun because they work in mines, are slaves, or travel long distances and their skin color makes them poorly adapted to low sunlight levels.
The problem is that it’s difficult to track bouts of ricket using bones. Throughout your life, your bones are constantly being remodeled–this is what allows orthodontics to work, and dental implants–so records of bouts of rickets can be erased.
Your teeth are different. After their formation, your teeth don’t change. They are, in the words of a researcher, “like fossils in your mouth,” because they retain the record of the conditions you experienced when you were a child. This may include vitamin deficiencies like vitamin D or calcium. It may also include exposure to radioactive isotopes or particular environmental contaminants. It can even include exposure to certain medical treatments like tetracycline antibiotics.
And now that archaeologists are better learning to read this record, they will learn much more about ancient peoples than we ever thought possible.
Crucial Times for Vitamin D
It’s always important to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D, but it’s especially crucial to get vitamin D when your body has high demand for it, including:
- Periods of teeth formation
- Periods of bone growth
- During orthodontic treatment
- After dental implant placement
At these times, it’s vitally important to get enough vitamin D. So how do you ensure you’re getting enough?
Getting Vitamin D
During the summer, it’s easy to get enough vitamin D. It should be enough to go outside in shorts and a tanktop for ten minutes between 10 am and 3 pm three times a week. You will need more sun exposure if:
- You are wearing more clothes
- You have dark skin
- You are wearing sunscreen
- The weather is cloudy
- It’s not summer
In these cases you will want to spend more time out to ensure that you’re getting enough ultraviolet B radiation to make vitamin D.
Symptoms You’re Not Getting Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is common because it has few symptoms before it becomes serious. However, you might get some warning signs about your low vitamin D levels, such as muscle soreness, fatigue, and low mood.
If you experience these or if your doctor informs you about a vitamin D deficiency, you need to spend more time in the sun or seek out food sources of vitamin D.