As the COVID-19 pandemic brings the globe to a grinding halt, people are trying to do anything possible to limit their risk of contracting the virus. Many persons have flocked to pharmacies to buy vitamins, tonics, and in some cases their prescription meds which they probably haven’t taken for the last 3 or 4 months. There is a strong possibility that you did the same. As a matter of fact, I am willing to wager that you went out and bought some vitamin C to help boost your immune system.
Vitamin C and the Common Cold
Vitamin C has been promoted as an immune system booster and a warrior in the fight against the common cold and influenza viruses for over 70 years. Funny enough, there is very little scientific evidence to support claims that vitamin C helps to reduce the risk of the common cold. As recently as 2013, studies showed that for the general population vitamin C played no significant role in reducing the risk of getting the cold. The only population in which there was a significant reduction in the risk of getting a cold, a 50% reduction, were in extremely active people such as marathon runners.
How Much Vitamin C Do I Need?
The body does not produce vitamin C and we therefore need to get vitamin C from our diets or through the use of dietary supplements. Though we’re used to seeing supplements containing 500mg and 1g doses of vitamin C, the daily recommended dietary allowance is only 90mg and 75mg for men and women respectively.
Vitamin C & Your Teeth
We know that the excessive consumption of acidic food and drinks can lead to tooth erosion. Orange juice, known to be high in vitamin C is acidic. Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C is the cause for the erosive effect of orange juice. Taking that into account, wouldn’t it then be fair to ask, can vitamin C supplements cause tooth erosion? The short answer is, yes, and there is research to support this. Vitamin C chewables significantly increase the incidence of acid erosion. A pH of 5.5 and below can cause the enamel to dissolve and vitamin C chewables can result in decrease in pH to 2.3 for up to 25 minutes. Your saliva can help to minimize the effects of this low pH, but repeated exposure to low pH can lead to loss of enamel through acid erosion.
Should I Stop Taking Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary, and while there is no evidence that high doses are beneficial to one’s health, it is in no way being suggested that you should remove vitamin C from your supplement list. What is recommended however is:
- Take vitamin C as a capsule.
- If you must take chewables, gummies or effervescent vitamin C, rinse with water immediately afterwards and avoid brushing your teeth for at least an hour following their use.
- Drink effervescent vitamin C supplements using a straw to reduce its contact with teeth.
These steps can help to greatly reduce the risk of acid erosion due to excessive vitamin C use.
What supplements are in your medicine cabinet? If you have any questions regarding the use of vitamin C and your oral health, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Steven Moore is a General Dentist practicing in Jamaica. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 2015 and completed a Dental Residency (AEGD) with the NYU Lutheran Medical Centre in 2017. He enjoys playing video games and practicing judo.