Folic acid, the synthetic version of folate also known as Vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient for cell growth, cell repair, and disease prevention. It’s a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it is not stored in the body for very long and must be taken in daily in order to maintain optimum health and avoid deficiency complications.
While it is especially recommended that pregnant women get 400 micrograms per day to dramatically reduce the risk of their child being born with a spine or brain defect by up to 70%, folate or folic acid plays an important role in preventing oral health problems as well.
Craniofacial Defects and Folic Acid
Researchers have found that there is a strong correlation between pregnant women who have deficient levels of folic acid and those who give birth to a child with a craniofacial defect such as a cleft palate or cleft lip.
A cleft palate is an opening on the roof of the mouth where the two sides of the palate did not fuse together during development. A cleft lip is when there is a separation of the two sides of the lip and may include separation of the upper jaw and gums.
A child born with a cleft lip and/or palate often requires surgeries, dental work, and speech therapy over several years. Even though studies haven’t definitively proven a folic acid deficiency as a cause of these kinds of defects, many medical professionals feel it is yet another reason to take precaution and recommend sufficient folic acid intake before and during pregnancy.
Gum Disease and Folic Acid
Recently the CDC released a report stating that about half of all Americans over 30 years old have gum disease ranging from mild to severe. Treating gum disease begins with regular brushing, flossing, visits to the dentist, and quitting smoking.
Eating nutritious foods that contain folate (Vitamin B9) will also help the cells in your mouth repair gum disease damage more effectively. Folate works with Vitamin C in this regard, so it’s best to make sure you’re getting enough of both to reap the benefits of gum disease treatment and prevention. Based on your oral health condition and diet, your dentist may recommend using a folic acid toothpaste or mouthwash.
Best Sources for Folic Acid
A poor diet is often the reason many people do not get enough folic acid in their system. Since 1998, the US has fortified many grain foods with folic acid including breads, pastas, and cereals. When shopping for these products, be sure to check the label to find out how much you’re getting with each serving as they can vary from 25% to 100% of the recommended daily value.
Another great way to get more folic acid is by eating healthy foods with naturally-occurring folate. The best sources for folate are: romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, peas, broccoli, beets, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.
Folic acid is an important nutrient for men, women, and children alike as our cells are constantly in a cycle of growth and repair. Other diseases that folic acid helps prevent are coronary heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and depression. If you’re unsure of your nutrition needs or are taking medication, speak with your doctor and dentist before taking any folic acid supplements.
Robert Milton blogs for Austin Dental Center, PC, an Austin dentist who provides preventative dental care, mercury-free fillings, teeth whitening, and more to patients of all ages. To get in touch with the dental clinic, contact Austin Dental Center, PC, 2304 Hancock Dr. Suite 1, Austin, TX 78756-2537, (512) 298-1212.