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How vitamin A helps keep gums healthy

Vitamin A is linked with good eye health, but this vital vitamin can help protect your smile too.

Vitamin A doesn’t just help you see in the dark. This powerful antioxidant, also known as retinol, can help protect your mouth against infection so your gums stay strong and healthy.1

What is vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that, as well as helping you see clearly in dim light, helps our cells reproduce normally and keeps our skin healthy.2

Our bodies convert beta-carotene – the plant form of vitamin A – into a version of vitamin A that we can use.

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Good food sources of vitamin A

You can find beta-carotene in carrots, sweet potato, red pepper, green leafy vegetables – particularly kale, spinach and broccoli – and mango.3

Rich sources of vitamin A include dairy products, liver, eggs, and oily fish.

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Why we need look after our gums

Gum disease isn’t just a bit of a pain; if left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease, which affects the structures surrounding the teeth, and ultimately tooth loss.4 Inflammation in the gums has also been linked to a number of health conditions. Experts from Harvard Medical School say those with periodontal disease also have a greater risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and pregnancy complications.5

How vitamin A helps your gums

In 2013, paediatric dental researchers in India found that if you don’t get enough vitamin A in your diet, this causes your saliva glands to shrink.6 Smaller saliva glands mean you produce less saliva in your mouth. The problem is that saliva has an important role in helping to neutralise the acid that causes gum and tooth infection. So, if there’s less saliva, this reduces your mouth’s natural protection from bacteria.7 Another study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2015, found that vitamin A can speed up gum healing after injury or inflammation. A group of 63 non-smokers with gum disease who were given vitamin A supplements as part of a treatment programme that included vitamins C and E, essential fatty acids and extra fresh fruits and vegetables, experienced faster gum healing after periodontal procedures.8
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1. Najeeb S, et al. The Role of Nutrition in Periodontal Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037517/
2. NHS Choices. Vitamin A. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
3. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
4. NHS Choices. Gum disease. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gum-disease/
5. Harvard Health Publishing. Why your gums are so important to your health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/why-your-gums-are-so-important-to-your-health
6. Sheetal A, et al. Malnutrition and its oral outcome. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3576783/
7. The European Food Information Council. Saliva: More than just water in your mouth. Available from: http://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/saliva-more-than-just-water-in-your-mouth
8. Dodington DW, et al. Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, α-tocopherol, EPA, and DHA are positively associated with periodontal healing after nonsurgical periodontal therapy in non-smokers but not in smokers. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26423734

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