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How the Sun Impacts Oral Health

Without the sun, Earth as we know it would not exist. The fiery star delivers solar energy essential for plant life (and the entire food chain), light, heat and holds the secret to life itself. Additionally, humans also benefit from the beams generated by the powerful star; sunlight can help relieve depression, helps aid in the digestion of food, lower blood pressure, help reduce anxiety, relieves body pain, improve cardiovascular strength and can impact dental health.

Over the years sun exposure has gotten a bum rap thanks to the risks associated with too much of a good thing. There is know denying that the suns rays can cause premature aging, skin cancer (the most prevalent cancer in the nation), cold sore outbreaks, allergies, eye damage and painful sunburns. However, despite the risks researchers believe that the risks are far outweighed by the health benefits linked to absorbing a steady stream of light.

The Good, Vitamin D

Vitamin D is as the “sunshine vitamin” and many Americans are not getting enough of the stuff. According to the statistics from the 2011 U.S. National Center for Health, 25 percent of the U.S. population is at risk for vitamin D inadequacy, while 8 percent of the U.S. population is at risk for vitamin D deficiency which can contribute to dental problems caused by bone lose.

The sun is the best (and free) source of Vitamin D; skin directly exposed to sunlight will kick off the bodies natural production of the organic compound. Vitamin D is essential to the bone mineralization process as it makes calcium more readily available for absorption. The Fact is the body cannot absorb sufficient amounts of calcium without vitamin D and calcium is one of the most important nutrients to promote dental health.

Not only are people with low levels of Vitamin D at a greater risk for fracturing bones thanks to osteoporosis, they may also have a weakened immune system, stand a bigger chance of developing multiple sclerosis, rickets and increase the odds of individuals dying from specific internal cancers(http://www.news-medical.net/news/34041.aspx).

The Bad, Cold Sores

Cold sores are tiny oral blisters and those small infections can pack a wallop of pain. The unsightly growths are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 that typically infect people before age ten. According to 0900-Dentist, “The Herpes Virus Association estimates that 6 out of 10 people carry HSV-1 – the virus that causes cold sores herpes above the waist (commonly appearing on the face or lips),” and sun exposure can trigger outbreaks, even after many years of the virus laying dormant.

Regardless of if a person is trying to up their Vitamin D levels or are simply heading out for the day, protecting lips with a product featuring a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 is a must! That level of protection can help shield individuals not only from cold sore outbreaks but sun damage that may contribute to oral cancer.

The Ugly, Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is the generic name for when uncontrollable growth of cells invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue, specifically in the neck and head. Oral cancer has a higher mortality rate than other cancers as the disease typically receives a late diagnosis and by that time, the infection has spread elsewhere. According to http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/, “Close to 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 36,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.” Sun exposure is one factor that can up the odds of developing the condition.

Although tobacco and alcohol use is the biggest contributor to oral cancer, sun exposure (especially at an early age or continued frequency) also increases the odds of the troublesome cells of developing. The culprit is the ultraviolet radiation distributed via sunlight.

Caution needs to be implemented in order to get the perk and minimize any complications from arising from sun exposure. Some steps to help deliver the perfect balance include:

  • Wear a sun sensor patch that automatically changes colors that alert consumers when they have reached their sun exposure limit.
  • No sensor patch? Generally speaking, limit direct sun exposure to no more than ten minutes per day.
  • Check your local UV index forecast to avoid overexposure to UV radiation (http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/whereyoulive.html).
  • Make sure to apply sun block liberally when not working towards getting a daily dose. Everyone should make sure to apply the screen daily regardless of the weather.
  • Never ever use tanning beds as they deliver powerful ultraviolet beams that will negatively impact skin health.
  • Avoid soaking in midday rays as they are the most powerful and damaging to health.
  • Babies under six months of age should not be exposed to direct.
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