How often have you encountered a mouth full of decay only to have your patient say, “But I brush and floss everyday!” There’s no substitute for healthy oral hygiene, which means regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing after each brush, and seeing a dentist at least once per year.

Despite good oral care, some people are more prone to cavities than others. When dentists recognize signs of malnutrition and the effects of the lack of essential nutrients in a patient, dentists can be more effective in treating patients who, despite their best efforts, get cavities more often. Here’s how:

Calcium

Calcium is the cornerstone of healthy teeth and bones. But studies also show that eating a calcium-rich diet improves heart and lung function since it helps muscles (including the heart muscle) to contract. This improves blood circulation, which helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Experts recommend people get around 400 to 1000 mg of calcium per day. But around 3.5 billion people lack sufficient calcium levels. And that deficiency often leads to sometimes serious health conditions. If, along with brittle teeth or tooth loss, your patient complains of muscle weakness and cramping, lethargy, and tingling in hands or feet, and is lactose intolerant, encourage your patient to talk with their doctor about their calcium intake.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiencies are more common than dentists may believe. Experts estimate that almost half (42 percent) of Americans lack healthy levels of Vitamin D, particularly premenopausal women, people over age 65, and even people who’ve been taking prescribed medications for heartburn, acid reflux, and constipation.

Much like calcium deficiency, patients who lack healthy levels of vitamin D may complain about painful joints, muscle weakness, fatigue, chronic skin conditions, or mood changes. And, according to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin D deficiency often occurs in patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, obesity, and kidney and liver disease, among other chronic conditions.

Vitamin C

As a major player in repairing blood vessels, cartilage, muscles, and repairing bone, and protecting your cells from toxic free radical cells, Vitamin C is one of the most essential nutrients. When your body is low in Vitamin C, it shows in a variety of ways, such as dry, damaged skin, slow-healing wounds, painful joints, easy bruising, fatigue, and bleeding gums.

Despite the prevalence of vitamin C in fresh fruits and vegetables, an NIH study found that up to 23 percent of respondents were vitamin C deficient.

The data shows that 14 percent of males and 20 percent of females aged 13 to 18 years old consume less than 30 mg per day of vitamin C. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 65 mg for males and 75 mg for females.

Protein

Known as a popular component for engaged dieting, protein is essential for building and repairing muscles, curbing hunger, stabilizing blood sugar, growing healthy hair and nails, and other essential body functions.

“In addition to calcium, certain fatty acids, and vitamins C and D, dietary protein may help your jaw and teeth function properly for a lifetime,” say experts at dentaldepot.net. “Protein, which helps repair tissue and build bone, is an important component in bone mineral density, or BMD.”

Healthy bone mineral density (BMD) measures essential bone materials that effectively support body structure and prevent fractures. Low levels of BMD are commonly associated with osteoporosis.

“Because poor dental health is typically characterized by inflamed or weakened periodontal ligaments and bone loss or weakening in the jaw, which mimics the damage caused by osteoporosis, leading scientists to believe, there may be a link between BMD and poor dental health as well,” they said.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is instrumental in helping maintain healthy blood and nerve cells and manufacture DNA. But people with low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood are more likely to suffer from periodontitis. An NIH study found that Vitamin B12 deficiency affects up to 43 percent of older adults.

In addition to evidence of gum disease, patients often suffer from shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, pale skin, numb or tingling hands or feet, weak muscles, mood changes, among other symptoms.

A healthy patient relationship relies on trust. To ensure your patients receive the best care possible, especially when it comes to tooth decay and nutritional health concerns, talk about your patient’s challenges or frustrations with oral health. A brief screening of lifestyle habits can determine if your patient should talk with their healthcare provider. Because not only does your patient need to be seen, they also want to be heard.