Most of us think about the effects of key nutrients in our diet and their effect on our overall health. We are just beginning to learn about the importance of Vitamin K2 and its implications on our systemic health, including our dental health. The Healthy Mouth Movement is passionate about educating you and treating your overall health to the best of our ability. I am sharing truly fascinating information as I learn with you on this journey today. We are diving into Vitamin K and how it can affect your oral health.
Vitamin K benefits the body in so many ways, yet it is not discussed as much as other vitamins like B, C, and D.
Vitamin K is well-known for its role in blood clotting.
What you may not know is that its name actually refers to a group of vitamins that provide health benefits far beyond helping your blood clots.
Our bodies have vitamin K-dependent proteins that cannot do their jobs without the Ks.
The main function of all types of vitamin K is to activate proteins that play an important role in blood clotting, heart health, and bone health.
Although there are several different types of vitamin K, the two most common in our diet are Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2
Identifying the different roles vitamin K1 and K2 play in the body
Vitamin K1 is mostly found in plants like leafy greens and is our main dietary source of vitamin K. It makes up about 75–90% of all vitamin K we consume. It has been estimated that less than 10% of the K1 found in plants is actually absorbed in the body. There is where the problem lies when we are not absorbing the Vitamins we consume. This is a topic for another discussion.
Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods and in some meats and cheeses. It is also made by our body from vitamin K1 in the food we eat. K2 is often found in foods that contain fat, it may be better absorbed than K1.
Vitamin K2 funnels calcium into bones to strengthen mineral density to fight fractures while it prevents and even removes dangerous arterial calcification. Along the way it has beneficial effects for almost every major health concern, we have at this present time, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, infertility, tooth decay, and helping children grow up healthy.
At the present moment, we are still in the early stages of recognized research on K2 supplementation, there is no recommended daily intake; source.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins are much better absorbed when combined and eaten with dietary fat.
As I stated earlier, Vitamin K helps various proteins in the body that are needed for blood clotting and the building of bones. Prothrombin, a protein present in blood plasma that is converted into active thrombin during coagulation is a vitamin K-dependent protein directly involved with blood clotting. Osteocalcin is another protein that requires vitamin K to produce healthy bone tissue. Because of differences in absorption and transport to tissues throughout the body, vitamin K1 and K2 could have profoundly different effects on your health.
Vitamin K2’s long side-chain allows it to circulate in the blood longer than K1. Where vitamin K1 may stay in the blood for several hours, whereas some forms of K2 can remain in the blood for days.
Some researchers believe that vitamin K2 circulated longer allowing it to be better used in tissues located throughout the body. Vitamin K1 is primarily transported to and used by the liver.
Vitamin K may help keep blood pressure lower by preventing mineralization and not allowing minerals to build up in the arteries. This helps the heart to pump blood freely through the body.
Mineralization naturally occurs with age, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease. Adequate intake of vitamin K not only aids in heart health it has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke.
There seems to be a correlation between low intake of vitamin K and osteoporosis.
Vitamin K has been linked with improved memory in older adults.
In one study, healthy individuals over the age of 70 years with the highest blood levels of vitamin K1 had the best verbal episodic memory when tested.
Tradition teaches us that calcium is the most important nutrient for strong bones and teeth, and it’s the reason for the “ Milk does a body good ” slogan. Yet calcium, alone, isn’t enough to ensure good dental health. It is vitamin K2, working synergistically with calcium and other minerals, that is most responsible for preventing cavities and even reversing some pre-existing cavities. See Dental Caries/ Tooth Decay Blog
Vitamin K2 and Activator X
In 1939, famed dentist Weston A. Price published his research that provided a foundation for the future of preventative dental care and a guide to optimal health overall.
For years, Price had studied primitive groups around the world that lived long lifespans, had minimal disease occurrence, and very few incidences of cavities or gum disease. Even though those cultures had no exposure to the Western world and its modern “advancements”. Shockingly, many of the people Price recorded had never heard of a toothbrush.
Yet one pattern arose in Price’s research: Those cultures commonly ate foods high in a compound that Price had no name for, prompting him to call it “Activator X.”
Once Price realized the impact of activator X on dental health, he abandoned nearly all conventional dental procedures in favor of a system of dietary recommendations. He found that those recommendations led to straight, healthy, cavity-free teeth in most cases.
Weston Price was primarily interested in Activator X because of its ability to control dental caries. By studying the remains of human skeletons from past eras, he estimated that there had been more dental caries in the present hundred years than there had been in the previous thousand years and suggested that Activator X was a key substance that people of the past obtained but that modern nutrition did not adequately provide. Price used the combination of high-vitamin cod liver oil and high-Activator X butter oil as the cornerstone of his protocol for reversing dental caries. This protocol not only stopped the progression of tooth decay but completely reversed it without the need for oral surgery by causing the dentin to grow and remineralize, sealing what was once active caries with a glassy finish. One 14-year-old girl completely healed 42 cavities in 24 teeth by taking capsules of the high-vitamin cod liver oil and Activator X concentrate three times a day for seven months.
While we aren’t certain what Activator X was, the best guess within the scientific community is that Price was generally referring to vitamin K2. More specifically, science leans toward the fact that K2 is most powerful when operating with vitamins A and D3.
In 1945, Weston Price published the second edition of his pioneering work Nutrition and Physical Degeneration; he added a new chapter entitled, “A New Vitamin-Like Activator.” In it, he presented evidence of an unrecognized fat-soluble substance that played a fundamental role in the utilization of minerals and whose absence from modern nutrition was responsible for the increase of dental caries and other degenerative diseases. Although Price quantified the relative amount of this substance in thousands of samples of dairy products sent to him from around the world, he never determined its precise chemical identity. For what he referred to as “Activator X,” also sometimes referred to as the “Price Factor.”
Price found the highest concentrations of this nutrient in “the milk of several species, varying with the nutrition of the animal” and found the combination of cod liver oil and high-Activator X butter to be superior to that of cod liver oil alone. In the many butter samples he tested, Activator X was only present when the animals were eating rapidly growing green grass.
It wasn’t until 1975 that Harvard researchers realized that vitamin K2 wasn’t just a different version of vitamin K1 with the same benefits. On the contrary, they discovered the protein osteocalcin, which is dependent upon Vitamin K2 for activation. Once activated, osteocalcin pulls calcium from the bloodstream into your bones and teeth to keep them strong and disease-free. Vitamin K1 doesn’t have the ability to activate that process.
With a new focus on vitamin K2 and its specific benefits, it would make sense for doctors and dentists to promote it as a vital nutrient and encourage people to get more of it in their diets. But that just wasn’t the case.
In 2007, 68 years after Price published the incredible benefits of Activator X, researchers finally realized that most people in modern society are deficient in Vitamin K2. The ramifications of this are huge, as scientists believe that vitamin K2 may have the potential to reverse the heart disease and diabetes epidemics. Without vitamin K2, it is nearly impossible to achieve optimal oral and dental health.
For years, the focus of oral health has centered around calcium and vitamin D3. Both of these nutrients are important—calcium is the basic building block for our teeth and necessary for reversing and healing cavities. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions somewhat like a hormone. And your body needs D3 in order to balance minerals and absorb the calcium you consume.
Almost 90 percent of the population is deficient in vitamin D. I am one of them, mine was critically low. I found out after blood work when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many people assume that the best way to protect bones and teeth is to increase the intake of these nutrients.
But we’ve learned that supplementing with calcium on its own tends to cause an increase in heart disease causing plaque. So what’s the problem here? And why is the remedy for one problem causing another, potentially more dangerous one?
The issue is that focusing on calcium by itself can’t achieve desired results, like stronger bones and healthy teeth. Yes, you need vitamin D3 for balance and absorption, but even those two nutrients together don’t provide a complete solution. This is the main problem with just treating symptoms and not looking at the body as a whole.
Without vitamin K2, the body’s calcium may not end up in bones and teeth where it’s actually needed. If it is not absorbed, it may travel to arteries where it calcifies and leads to heart disease.
Vitamins D3 and K2 work synergistically to carry and deposit calcium to your teeth and bones where it can be properly absorbed. And when one part of that system is out of whack, the whole process becomes disrupted—which can lead to poor dental health, even when you’re brushing and flossing regularly.
If you have too little calcium, your teeth will be susceptible to faster demineralization, which can lead to cavities. Calcium deficiency during pregnancy can result in an enamel deficiency or weakened teeth in the developing fetus. If you are not getting enough D3 you won’t be able to properly absorb Calcium, and you can also anticipate being at a greater risk for gum disease which is linked very closely with the development of type 2 Diabetes.
Vitamin K2 benefits for your mouth
1. Kills Cavity-Causing Bacteria
One of the main factors in cavity formation is the disruption of the oral microbiome.
Our mouth has trillions of bacteria at any time, both good and bad, it’s the healthy bacteria that help to stop bad breath and cavities from forming. Unfortunately, it’s very common for bad bacteria to multiply and crowd out the good ones. When we do not disrupt this process, harmful bacteria can lead to cavities, gum disease, and other issues.
To illustrate the impact of vitamin K2 on the oral microbiome, Dr. Price repeatedly conducted a simple experiment. He treated patients with a butter oil very rich in vitamin K2 and found that the cavity-promoting bacteria was decreased by up to 95 percent.
2. Normal Facial Structure
One of the most intriguing findings that Weston A. Price documented during his travels was the difference in face and jaw structure of those exposed to Western diets as compared to those subsisting entirely on a traditional diet.
As Rheaume-Bleue explains, in her book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: vitamin K2 is extremely important during fetal development. When mothers don’t consume enough vitamin k, the nasal cartilage of the fetus becomes calcified too early and can lead to the undergrowth of the bottom third of the face. This condition is considered extremely rare and is known as maxillonasal dysplasia or “Binder’s syndrome.”
Dr. Kenin Boyd says we are sometimes even able to see this on an ultrasound of the baby in utero. Nasal breathing is also an important factor for the pregnant mother.
Have you ever noticed a child with teeth that clearly don’t fit in their oral cavity, leading to misshapen or displaced teeth? That can be caused by vitamin K2 deficiency during fetal development.
Price saw it happen to children born to mothers who had previously birthed children with perfect teeth and facial structures. If women were exposed to a K2-deficient Western diet between births, the younger children suffered developmentally. The reverse, however, was also true. Once back on a traditional diet, mothers gave birth to children with properly formed faces and jaws, who were able to grow straight, strong teeth.
The impact of the Western diet on facial development is one reason I believe modern dentistry has had to turn to so many external mechanisms like palatal expanders, braces, and the removal of wisdom teeth.
3. Builds New Dentin
Osteocalcin is a K2-dependent protein, increasing vitamin K2 intake causes osteocalcin to work more efficiently. When osteocalcin is activated by K2, it causes the growth of fresh dentin (the inner calcified tissue of a tooth that is under the enamel layer of teeth), and when new dentin grows, cavities are less likely to form. (Note that this process also requires vitamins A and D.)
4. Slows Tooth Degradation
Similar to how it impacts bones, it is believed that vitamin K2 helps to slow the rate of tooth loss that occurs with age. In fact, when it comes to bone, K2 has been observed to actually increase bone mass.
Vitamin K2 interacts with a number of bodily processes and because what happens in the mouth happens in the body, it’s not surprising to know that vitamin K2 can support total-body health.
Vitamin K Deficiency
True vitamin K deficiencies are rare in healthy adults. It typically only occurs in people with severe malnutrition or malabsorption, and sometimes in people taking the medication warfarin. Which is a blood thinner
Symptoms of deficiency include excessive bleeding that won’t easily stop, though this could also be caused by other things and you will need to figure that out with your physician. Bleeding that won’t easily stop is not something to ignore.
Although you might not be deficient in vitamin K, it is possible that you aren’t getting or absorbing enough vitamin K to help prevent heart disease and bone disorders like osteoporosis.
It is for this reason, you need to get the appropriate amount of vitamin K your body requires. Blood tests can confirm if you have enough or are in need of more.
What is the right amount of Vitamin K and how do you get it?
The recommended adequate intake for vitamin K is based only on vitamin K1 and is set at 90 mcg/day for adult women and 120 mcg/day for adult men.
This can easily be achieved by adding a cup of spinach to an omelet or salad, or by adding a 1/2 cup of broccoli or Brussels sprouts as a side for dinner.
Consuming these with a source of fat like egg yolks or olive oil will help your body absorb vitamin K better.
There is currently no recommendation on how much vitamin K2 you should be eating. It is best to try to add a variety of vitamin K2-rich foods into your diet. Some of which are listed below:
- Eggs are fairly good sources of vitamin K2 that can easily be added to your daily breakfast.
- Cheeses: Fermented cheeses, such as Jarlsberg, Edam, Gouda, cheddar, and blue cheese, contain vitamin K2 formed by the bacteria used during their production.
- Dark Meat Chicken: The dark meat of chicken, such as legs and thighs contains moderate amounts of vitamin K2 and may be better absorbed than the K2 found in chicken breasts.
Both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 are available in supplement form. Although there are no known cases of toxic levels, more research is needed before specific recommendations for supplements can be given.
Vitamin K1 occurs in high amounts in leafy green vegetables, such as Kale and Swiss chard. Other sources include vegetable oils and some fruits.
Here are some food sources of vitamin K:
- One cup of raw spinach contains 145 mcg
- 1 tablespoon of soybean oil contains 25 mcg
- A half-cup serving of grapes contains 11 mcg
- A hard-boiled egg contains 4 mcg
- Egg yolk—15.5 micrograms
- 10 sprigs of parsley contain 90 micrograms (mcg)
- A half-cup serving of boiled collard greens contains 530 mcg
- Hard cheeses—76.3 micrograms
- Soft cheeses—56.5 micrograms
- Goose leg—31 micrograms
- Butter—15 micrograms
- Chicken liver (raw)—14.1 micrograms
- Chicken liver (pan-fried)—12.6 micrograms
- Goose liver pate—369 micrograms
No tolerable upper limit has been determined for vitamin K. Toxicity is rare and unlikely to result from eating foods containing vitamin K.
However, taking any type of supplement can lead to toxicity.
Vitamin K can interact with several common medications, including blood-thinners, anticonvulsants, antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and weight-loss drugs.
Blood thinners, such as warfarin are used to prevent harmful blood clots that may block blood flow to the brain or heart. They work by decreasing or delaying vitamin K’s clotting ability. Suddenly increasing or decreasing vitamin K intake can interfere with the effects of these drugs. Keeping vitamin K intake consistent from day to day can prevent these problems.
Anticonvulsants, if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, can increase the risk of vitamin K deficiency in a fetus or a newborn. Examples of anticonvulsants are phenytoin and dilantin.
Cholesterol-lowering medications interfere with fat absorption. Dietary fat is necessary for absorbing vitamin K, so people who are taking this medication may have a higher risk of deficiency.
Anyone who is taking any of these medications should speak to their doctor about their vitamin K intake.
Vitamin K1 is primarily found in leafy green vegetables, while K2 is most abundant in fermented foods and some animal products.
Vitamin K2 may be absorbed better by the body and some forms may stay in the blood longer than vitamin K1. These two things may cause K1 and K2 to have different effects on your health.
Vitamin K likely plays an important role in blood clotting and promoting good heart and bone health. Some research suggests that K2 may be superior to K1 in some of these functions, but further research is needed to confirm this.
For optimal health, focus on increasing food sources of both vitamin K1 and K2. Try to include one green vegetable daily and incorporate fermented foods and K2-rich animal products into your diet.
Dr. Price tested over 20,000 samples of dairy foods sent to him from around the world, he realized that the physiological effects that correlated with a food’s ranking were different from those attributable to isolated vitamin D, and began using the term “Activator X” to describe the nutritional substance that the test was measuring. He observed that the vitamin content of these butter samples varied fifty-fold and that the samples richest in Activator X were the most potent for controlling dental caries.
The best way to ensure the body has sufficient nutrients is to drink half your body weight in water a day, and consume a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Supplements should only be used in case of deficiency, and then, under medical supervision. Our bodies are a very complex system and are made to heal themselves which can mostly be accomplished with mindset, oxygen, water, food, and sleep. We need to look at our bodies as a whole. When we just treat one symptom and do not find the root cause we can create an imbalance that sets off a chain reaction. This has been my experience over the past several months. Find a doctor that looks at everything before you decide on a treatment protocol. You may save yourself a lot of time, frustration, and money.
Your mouth’s a window into your body and a good place to start to be and stay your healthiest. Health care professionals need to be aware of the effects of vitamins on oral health to provide the best available care for their patients. Follow your gut and seek professionals that treat you. While we have a protocol for a reason we are all different in how we react to medications and supplements much we need for our bodies to have optimal health.
A Healthy Mouth is a healthy body and a healthy life!