Detecting Nutritional Deficiencies at the Dentist

The classic hygiene appointment of the past is so much more today than just cleaning your teeth. The truth is, the average person visits their dentist and hygienist more often than they go in for a preventative medical check-up. We now know there is a direct connection between oral health and overall health. Your dental visit and hygiene appointment is one you do not want to miss. It’s important for you to know that what gets discovered at your routine dental cleaning can also save your life.


We know there is a connection between inflammation in the mouth and inflammation in the body, and when this goes unchecked, this shows up in the form of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic inflammatory diseases.  


In my dental practice in New York City and other dental offices throughout the country, we optimize your hour spent with the hygienist and dentist with oral cancer screenings, periodontial exams performed with the latest technology to check the health of the gums, nutritional assessments, and digital x-rays to check the hard tissues of the mouth, teeth and bone around the teeth. In my opinion, the hygienist has now become the Oral Health Coach, educating and working along with the dentist to protect and prevent, detect disease, and offer advice on how to maintain a healthy mouth, a smart nutritional focus, great hygiene, and overall well-being.


Your mouth is a window to your overall health. Nutrition plays a critical role. If your body doesn’t get the proper nutrition, it can show up on various places in your mouth – your tongue, your gums, and the soft and hard tissues of the mouth. Very often, when something flares up, loosens, or simply looks different within your mouth, it’s your body’s way of asking for some type of nutrient it doesn’t have enough of. Your Oral Health Coach can help identify which vitamin deficiency you may have and offer you healthy, safe ways to incorporate them back into your system.


  • Loose teeth, premature tooth loss, softening of teeth, and bleeding of gums are all signs that you need more calcium. We suggest having more milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, canned sardines or salmon, and spinach.
  • Inflamed gum tissue is a sign that you need more magnesium and you can find it in halibut, artichokes, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tofu, cashews, and sunflower seeds.
  • Shiny red lips and a sore tongue are signs that you need more vitamin B2, which can be found in almonds, broccoli, spinach, kale, and lentils.
  • Red and/or swollen tip of tongue with dry, smooth edges, and general mouth pain are signs that you need more vitamin B3. Try eating more avocados, potatoes, lean ground beef, liver, and shrimp.
  • A sore burning mouth or a smooth tongue shows a lack of vitamin B6 in your diet. You can fix this by adding more bananas, watermelon, broccoli, spinach, tomato juice, acorn squash, white rice, and chicken breast.
  • Sores at the edge of the mouth can mean you are missing a multitude of nutrients such as vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. A more well-rounded diet including almonds, potatoes, lean ground beef, bananas, and poultry will help to fix this.
  • Bad breath, a bright red tongue that may have fissures, loss of taste, dry mouth, numbness and bleeding are signs that you need more vitamin B12, which you can find in poultry, fish, shellfish, meats, milk, and eggs.
  • Bleeding gums, lowered immune response, infections in the mouth (such as a yeast infection), and impaired taste shows a lack of vitamin C or A in your diet. Add more spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, snow peas, kiwi, mango, orange, grapefruit juice, strawberries, carrots, kale or other green leafy vegetables, papaya, peaches, red pepper and winter squash to your diet.
  • Softening of teeth, increased bleeding, and yeast infections of the mouth are signs of a lack of vitamin D and can be found in egg yolk, fortified milk, liver, and fatty fish.
  • Loss of sensation in the tongue, loss of taste, dry mouth, and susceptibility to gum disease are all signs of a lack of zinc in your diet and can be solved by adding more spinach, green peas, lentils, tomato juice, turkey (dark meat), lean ground beef, lean sirloin steak, plain yogurt, Swiss cheese and ricotta cheese.

If you notice any sudden changes in your mouth, contact your dentist and make an appointment. If you notice white or red patches in your mouth, lumps or bumps, or unexplained bleeding in the mouth, you may be experiencing some signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.


Eating a healthy balanced diet will make you feel better, increase your energy level, is good for your dental health, and will make you smile more often.


Whatever you have committed to do this year, whether it is to lose weight, eat healthier, be more active, smile more often, improve your overall health, have a brighter whiter smile, straighten or fix crooked teeth, this year’s visit to the dental office can help achieve these goals. If you haven’t already, schedule your first dental appointment in 2012. 


Added to Anatomy, Illness Prevention, Wellness, Oral Health on Wed 01/18/2012