Like many others born in the ’70s, I have a mouth full of a vast array of different metals! Over the years, some have been replaced with different materials such as composite and porcelain (when I could afford it) and some have needed to be crowned. I also had a root canal at the age of 23. The root canal has served me well. However, recently I started to experience pain in that area. Unfortunately, it transpired that there was an infection, and after one failed course of antibiotics, I chose to have the tooth extracted.
There’s nothing quite like losing a tooth to kick you into gear when it comes to oral hygiene but it’s also really important to look at what nutrients your teeth need to stay healthy from the inside. Human teeth are made up of different types of tissue including dentin, pulp and enamel. The innermost tissue is called pulp and consists of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that feed the tooth. Dentin covers the pulp and contains hollow tubules that can send hot and cold signals to the brain. This, in turn, is covered by the hardest substance in the body, the tooth enamel.
You can see how wonderfully intricate teeth are. So when thinking about our oral health, it’s important not only to maintain a clean environment around the exposed areas of our teeth in order to prevent decay but all also to provide nutrients that support their inner workings.
What nutrients do we need to maintain oral health?
Vitamin D, Phosphorus, Calcium and Vitamin K
Calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health, but adequate phosphorus is also needed in order to form a hard structure.1 The connective tissue that surrounds our teeth and the cells within their dentin have vitamin D receptors (receivers). Vitamin D is really important as it promotes the absorption of calcium within the body. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to benefit periodontal (i.e. gum) disease.2,3 As for vitamin K, it helps the body produce osteocalcin that promotes strong bones and teeth.
Where do we get these nutrients?
Phosphorus – chicken, turkey, sardines, salmon, mackerel, milk and cottage cheese, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and whole grains, beans and lentils.5
Calcium – Brocoli, Salmon, Cheese yoghurt, tofu, kale, bok choy, white fish.6
Vitamin D – Fish, milk, fortified foods and simply sun exposure.7
Vitamin K – Meat, cheese, eggs, blueberries, figs, green leafy vegetables.8
Propolis – also known as bee glue (!) is excreted from the glands of bees and then collected from trees they visit. It contains diverse chemical properties. Research says it decreases dental hypersensitivity and the permeability of dentin, strengthens dentine through stimulation of stem cells. Propolis is also thought to have a regenerative effect on dental pulp.9
Apart from the benefits to teeth, propolis has strong anti-fungal properties. Of special note is have been found to inhibit Candida Albicans.
Generally, Propolis is considered safe except of course, not to those with allergies to bees and honey.
Not forgetting our gums! Without healthy gums, our teeth are in a lot of trouble. Vitamin C is of particular note when it comes to healthy gums but we must also consider a wide a varied diet including nutrients vitamin E, fatty acids and beta carotene.
In conclusion, it is important to look beyond the brushing and flossing that are essential to good teeth. Nutrition supports the optimal workings of our teeth. There is a myriad of nutrients readily available to support tooth and gum health. And Propolis may be a useful supplement.10
Charlotte Schilcher (Dip ION, mBANT) is a registered Nutritionist and Nutritional Therapist.
1. Christine Bergman, Darlene Gray-Scott, Jau-Jiin Chen & Susan Meacham (2009) What is Next for the Dietary Reference Intakes for Bone Metabolism Related Nutrients Beyond Calcium: Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride?, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 49:2, 136-144, DOI: 10.1080/10408390701764468
2. Calcium and vitamin D supplements reduce tooth loss in the elderly
Krall, Elizabeth A et al.
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 111, Issue 6, 452 – 456
3. Jagelavičienė, Eglė et al. “The Relationship between Vitamin D and Periodontal Pathology.” Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania) vol. 54,3 45. 12 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3390/medicina54030045
5. Healthline (2019) ‘Top 12 Foods that are high in Phosphorus’ available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-phosphorus
6. Nutrition Data (2019) ‘ Foods highest in Calcium’ Available at:
7,. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506