What is calcium?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and is responsible for healthy blood vessels, muscles, nerves, hormones, bones, and of course, teeth.
Much of the calcium in your body is used to create calcium phosphate, a crystalline material that makes up your tooth enamel. Your enamel is the hardest substance in your body (even harder than your bones) and protects the sensitive nerves and tissue inside your teeth from damage.
As our bodies use up calcium, our levels naturally rise and fall, so we replenish lost calcium through diet and store excess in the bones and teeth. This stored calcium makes the bones and teeth stronger, so the more we have in reserve, the better.
If we use more calcium than we replace, we create a calcium deficiency. That means that the body doesn’t have enough calcium for essential functions like nerve transmission, so it pulls calcium from the bones and teeth instead, weakening them in the process.
If you’re suffering from calcium deficiency, your teeth will be much more vulnerable to cracking, chipping, breaking, and erosion. The latter happens when plaque builds up on and around the teeth, producing acid that eats away at your tooth enamel.
Teeth and bones are made from the same material, so a lack of calcium has a similar weakening effect on your bones. Sustained calcium deficiency increases your risk of developing osteoporosis, where the bones become brittle and break easily.
Osteoporosis can weaken your jaw bone to the point where it is unable to support your teeth. When that happens, your teeth can become loose or even fall out. This is especially true for women, who are three times more likely to lose teeth if they suffer from osteoporosis.
How much calcium do you need?
Calcium requirements vary according to age and gender. Children, for example, need lots of calcium to support their developing teeth and bones. In older people, especially post-menopausal women, bone loss is accelerated, so more calcium is needed to maintain strength.
The following chart from the National Institutes of Health offers guidelines on calcium needs according to age and gender.
|0–6 months||200 mg||200 mg|
|7–12 months||260 mg||260 mg|
|1–3 years||700 mg||700 mg|
|4–8 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|9–13 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|14–18 years||1,300 mg||1,300 mg|
|19–50 years||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|51–70 years||1,000 mg||1,200 mg|
|71+ years||1,200 mg||1,200 mg|
How to increase your calcium intake
The main source of calcium is diet. You can increase your intake by eating the following calcium-rich foods:
- Chinese cabbage
You can also look for calcium-fortified foods and drinks, such as orange juice, soy milk, tofu, and cereal. However, it’s advisable to get as much of your calcium as possible from natural sources, as these tend to be more easily absorbed and used by the body.
If you struggle to
reach your recommended daily intake of calcium, you may benefit from a
supplement. These come in two forms — calcium carbonate and calcium
citrate. The best form for you will depend on certain lifestyle and
health factors, so be sure to discuss your needs with your doctor before
starting a course of supplements.
Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D
To create the calcium phosphate that makes up your tooth enamel, your body needs more than just calcium. The other main component is phosphorus, a mineral found in foods such as:
- Wheat and cereals
- Edamame (soya) beans
- Meat, poultry, and fish
Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste can also help to replace lost phosphorus in the teeth, as can fluoride varnish treatment. This is done by your dentist and involves painting a special fluoride gel onto the teeth to fortify the enamel.
To absorb both calcium and phosphorus, and to regulate levels within your body, you need vitamin D. This vitamin is produced naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but you can also obtain it from foods such as:
- Oily fish
You can boost your vitamin D intake with fortified orange juice, cereal, bread, and milk products, but as with calcium, the best food sources are those in which vitamin D occurs naturally.
Questions about calcium? Concerned about your intake?
Talk to Mountain Peak Dentistry. Our friendly team can advise you on the best ways to boost your calcium intake for a strong, healthy smile. Contact us now on (303) 988-7800.
About Mountain Peak Dentistry:
Mountain Peak Dentistry is the dental practice of leading dentist, Dr. Brennan Bonati. We’re proud to be recognized as the most trusted, reliable and compassionate dental practice in Lakewood, CO and the surrounding areas, providing comprehensive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry.