Background: Vitamin C has long been a candidate for modulating periodontal disease. Studies of scorbutic gingivitis and the effects of vitamin C on extracellular matrix and immunologic and inflammatory responses provide a rationale for hypothesizing that vitamin C is a risk factor for periodontal disease.
Methods: We evaluated the role of dietary vitamin C as a contributing risk factor for periodontal disease utilizing the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) which is representative of the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population.
Results: A sample of 12,419 adults (20 to 90+ years of age), with dental measurements and assessment of dietary information as well as demographic and medical histories were included in the studies. Dietary vitamin C was estimated by a 24-hour dietary record. Individuals with periodontal disease were arbitrarily defined as those who had mean clinical attachment levels of > or =1.5 mm. Using multiple logistic regression analysis, we found a relationship between reduced dietary vitamin C and increased risk for periodontal disease for the overall population (odds ratio [OR] = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.05 to 1.33). Current and former tobacco users who were taking less dietary vitamin C showed an increased risk of periodontal disease with OR of 1.28, 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.59 for former smokers, and an OR of 1.21, 95% CI: 1.02 to 1.43 for current tobacco users. There was a dose-response relationship between the levels of dietary vitamin C and periodontal disease with an OR of 1.30 for those taking 0 to 29 mg of vitamin C per day, to 1.16 for those taking 100 to 179 mg of vitamin C per day as compared to those taking 180 mg or more of vitamin C per day.
Conclusion: Dietary intake of vitamin C showed a weak, but statistically significant, relationship to periodontal disease in current and former smokers as measured by clinical attachment. Those taking the lowest levels of vitamin C, and who also smoke, are likely to show the greatest clinical effect on the periodontal tissues.