A little known consequence of certain vitamin deficiencies is a number of conditions that can affect the mouth. One of the vitamins that are essential for oral health is vitamin B, or more specifically, the B-complex vitamins. The B-complex vitamins are actually a group of eight vitamins, which include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), cyanocobalamin (B12), pantothenic acid and biotin.
Aside from helping to maintain oral comfort and health, the B-complex vitamins are essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose (this provides energy for the body), the breakdown of fats and proteins (which aids the normal functioning of the nervous system), muscle tone in the stomach and intestinal tract, as well as maintaining the skin, hair, eyes and liver.
We have all been told that vitamins are good for us, but I would like to take a minute to go over what vitamins are and how they work. The word vitamin is derived from a combination of words -- vital amine -- and was conceived by Polish chemist Casimir Funk in 1912. Funk isolated vitamin B1, or thiamine, from rice. This was determined to be one of the vitamins that prevented beriberi, a disease marked by inflammatory or degenerative changes of the nerves, digestive system and heart. Vitamins are organic (carbon containing) molecules that mainly function as catalysts for reactions within the body.
A catalyst is a substance that allows a chemical reaction to occur using less energy and less time than it would take under normal conditions. If these catalysts are missing, as in a vitamin deficiency, normal body functions can break down and render a person susceptible to disease. The body requires vitamins in tiny amounts -- hundredths of a gram in many cases. We get vitamins from three primary sources: foods, beverages and our own bodies. Vitamin K and some of the B vitamins are produced by bacteria within our intestines, and vitamin D is formed with the help of ultraviolet radiation, or sunshine, on the skin.
A deficiency of any of the B-complex vitamins -- except pantothenic acid and biotin -- can cause a wide variety of oral problems. These problems include irritation and painful cracking of the lips, as well as inflammation of the tongue, and irritation inside the cheeks and other areas of the mouth.
The B-complex vitamins are found in many foods, including whole-grain cereals, bread, red meat, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, legumes, peas, soybeans, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, yeast, the germ and husks of grains, nuts, cheese and other food sources. Deficiencies of the B-complex vitamins are rare in healthy individuals, but are often found in alcoholics, the malnourished, the poor, the elderly and those who are unable to absorb food due to certain diseases, such as topical sprue or gluten enteropathy.
As we age, we can also become susceptible to B12 deficiency due to an increasingly difficult time metabolizing the vitamin. Consequently, many doctors recommend that people over 60 have their vitamin B12 levels checked to see if a B12 shot is needed.
Although the vast majority of dental problems are related to untreated infections of the teeth and gums, this is not always the case. In situations where oral discomfort cannot be explained by a dental infection, your dentist and family doctor should explore a deficiency in one or several of the B-complex vitamins.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.