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Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Oral Health and Nutrition

Course Number: 583


Vitamins are calorie free, organic, and play a crucial role in overall health. They help prevent cellular breakdown in their role as antioxidants and prevent inflammatory reactions in the body. They are associated with many functions that can affect oral tissues. Vitamins belong in two groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Tables 1 and 2 list the type of vitamins, their function, dietary sources, and deficiency symptoms.11

Table 1. Water-soluble Vitamins: C, B’s.11

VitaminSourceDeficiencyOral Deficiency
C-Ascorbic acid
  • Assists with formation of collagen fibers
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Helps with protein metabolism
  • Aids with calcium and iron absorption
  • Antioxidant
  • Peppers
  • Citrus fruits
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Scurvy
  • Gingival inflammation
  • Petechiae
  • Poor healing
B1-Thiamin or thiamine
  • Coenzyme for energy production
  • Pork, trout, black beans
  • Beriberi
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
  • None
  • Coenzyme for energy production
  • Milk, meat, enriched breads and cereals
  • Ariboflavinosis
  • Angular cheilitis
  • Glossitis
  • Coenzyme and partner with B2
  • Assists with blood cell formation
  • Meat, fish, beans, nuts, coffee, enriched breads and cereals
  • Pellagra (dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia)
  • None
  • Coenzyme
  • Chickpeas, beef, liver, tuna, salmon, chicken, bananas
  • Microcytic anemia;
  • Depressed immunity, irritability, glossitis
  • Glossitis
  • Angular cheilitis
  • Needs intrinsic factor from stomach for absorption
  • Works with folate to make RBCs
  • Animal products exclusively. Need supplementation if you follow a vegan diet
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Glossitis
  • Angular cheilitis
  • Tissue inflammation
B9-Folate/folic acid
  • Coenzyme in the synthesis of nucleic acid DNA, RNA
  • Beef, liver, green leafy vegetables, fruits
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Neural tube defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Ulcerated tongue
  • Mucosal lesions
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Synthesis of RNA, DNA
  • Liver, cauliflower, salmon, carrots, bananas, nuts
  • High blood sugar
  • Skin conditions
  • Inflammation of mucosal membranes
B5-Pantothenic acid
  • Coenzyme
  • Synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, and hormones
  • Yeast, chicken, beef, potatoes, oats, whole grains.
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • None

Table 2. Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, K.11

VitaminSourceDeficiencyOral Deficiency
Vitamin A-Beta-carotene/ Retinol
  • Immune function
  • Assist with formation of tissue of eye and cornea
  • Important antioxidant
  • Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, liver
  • Cantaloupe, mangos, red pepper
  • Macular degeneration
  • Night blindness
  • Exophthalmia (total blindness)
  • Xerostomia
  • Oral leukoplakia
  • Hyperkeratosis
Vitamin D-Calciferol
  • Promotes calcium absorption
  • Assist with bone formation, remodeling, and growth
  • Aids in cell growth, nerve and muscle formation, the immune system, and reduction of inflammation
  • UV light
  • Fatty fish; tuna, salmon
  • Fortified milk products, and orange juice
  • Adults-osteomalacia
  • Kids-rickets
  • Delayed dentition, enamel hypocalcification
  • Failure of bone wounds to heal
  • Enamel hypocalcification
  • Loss of alveolar bone
Vitamin E-Tocopherol
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune function
  • Inhibits blood clotting
  • Vegetable oils
  • Nuts and seeds; sunflower, almonds, hazelnuts
  • Nerve pain, immune system disorders
  • None
Vitamin K-Phylloquinone
  • Cofactor for prothrombin formation necessary for clotting
  • Bone metabolism
  • Intestinal bacteria
  • Dark leafy greens; spinach, kale, collards
  • Broccoli, soybeans, edamame
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Failure of wounds to stop bleeding
  • Failure of clotting