In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s there was a lot of interest in the application of nutrition and vitamin supplementation, particularly vitamin D, in the treatment of tooth decay. This research was pioneered by May Mellanby, with significant contributions by Drs. Drain and Boyd.
In the late 1930’s, Drs. Brodsky, Schick and Vollmer studied the effect of a single “massive” dose of vitamin D on the occurrence of cavities in about 100 children residing in the Sea View Hospital, New York. The children were between the ages of 2 and 16, and were being treated for acute tuberculosis. The rationale was that single doses of vitamin D of 600,000IU had been used successfully to treat rickets and tetany (low blood calcium) in children. The study was designed to test whether it would also be successful when applied to prevention of tooth decay.
All the children consumed the routine hospital diet consisting of 1 quart of milk, 5 to 10 ounces of meat or fish, 2 ounces of butter, 3 ounces of fresh fruit juice plus 1 orange or apple, 3 ounces of cooked vegetable, 3 ounces of raw vegetable and 1 egg per day. In addition to this basic diet each child received such food as puddings or rhubarb, bread with each meal, cereals, cocoa and stewed fruits.
Group A received no supplemental vitamin D. These children were the control group. Group B received about 305,000 IU of vitamins D2 and D3 in concentrated fish oil taken over a few days. Group C received a single massive dose of 600,000 IU of vitamin D2 as a supplement. None of the children showed any toxic manifestation after the administration of the single massive dose of vitamin D.
Eleven months after receiving the massive vitamin D supplement, the children were re-examined. The incidence of new cavities decreased in a dose-dependent fashion with increasing vitamin D. Group A developed an average of 1.18 cavities per child. Group B developed and average of 0.39 cavities per child, while Group C, developed only 0.17 cavities per child.
Administration of a single “massive” dose of vitamin D alone reduced the incidence of tooth decay by 85%.
The 600,000IU taken by Group C is equivalent to about 1,600 IU per day, which is within the range being recommended by prominent vitamin D researchers, and well below the current safe upper limit of 2,000IU per day.