As dental professional who also specializes in hair restoration for Philadelphia-area residents, I am always interested in connections between the mouth and hair. Many times these connections are indirect, as in the case of zinc. But zinc consumption, or the lack of it, has a direct impact on both hair and mouth, and it is important to be aware of the links.
Zinc is a mineral that is vital for many critical functions of our bodies. Its primary role is to ensure the proper functioning of our cells, both their growth and division. Among its many other roles, zinc also:
– Contributes to a strong immune system, as well as aiding in the process of healing injuries.
– Supports optimal thyroid function and the efficient breakdown of carbohydrates in the body.
– Helps fetal development as well as the overall growth of infants and kids.
– Aids the skin and may help in addressing related conditions like acne.
Zinc is found in foods such as fish and seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and spinach. Dietary preferences or restrictions can easily lead to insufficient zinc consumption. A vitamin supplement can help with this diet deficiency.
What does zinc have to do with hair and mouth? Zinc deficiency may lead to hair loss, as well as other problems. Some experts have suggested that zinc deficiency can lead to the deterioration of the protein structure of hair follicles, which in turn can cause hair loss. Zinc may also play a critical role in DNA and RNA production, required for the normal division of hair follicle cells and contributing to healthier hair growth.
Zinc deficiencies can lead to serious oral issues, like loss of sensation in the tongue and loss of taste, dry mouth, and susceptibility to gum disease.
However, as important as it is to have enough zinc in your body, it is equally important not to have excess zinc. With too much zinc in your system, it may work more like a toxin. Some common symptoms of excess zinc in the body include mouth irritation, stomach aches, and nausea. People have also developed neurological concerns when they have too much of zinc in their system.
Another reason why I am especially sensitive of the benefits and dangers of zinc is that zinc has been used in many dental products, including toothpaste and denture adhesives. This is not a reason to suddenly worry that you may be absorbing too much zinc. But it is important to keep in mind. In the last several years, one notable research finding was a link between the excessive use of some denture creams and nerve damage, caused by absorption of zinc through the cream. The wearers tended to use far more cream than normal—possibly because their dentures did not fit properly.
For denture wearers, this is not something to worry about. However, it is worth keeping in mind, as it is another fact about zinc.