12/23/2009 - Articles

A New Prescription for Healthy Teeth: Brush, Floss, and Get Enough Calcium

By: Tufts University

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Calcium has long been acknowledged for its role in the prevention of osteoporosis. A recent study has demonstrated that calcium-rich foods may also help to prevent some of the tooth loss that occurs with aging.

A New Prescription for Healthy Teeth: Brush, Floss, and Get Enough Calcium

Source: Tufts University
September 7, 2000 (Reviewed: January 2, 2003)

 

Calcium has long been acknowledged for its role in the prevention of osteoporosis. A recent study has demonstrated that calcium-rich foods may also help to prevent some of the tooth loss that occurs with aging. That is the finding from a study from the School of Dental Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo reported in the July issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

The researchers were interested in how calcium affected the incidence of periodontitis, the gum disease that can lead to disintegration of the gums and bone around the tooth and ultimately to tooth loss. Using information from records of individuals who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a study designed to collect data about the health and diet of people in the US, the researchers looked at the relationship between periodontitis and dietary calcium intake. (Calcium from supplements was not included in their estimates.) In three of the population groups, they found a significant association between low calcium intake and increased incidence of gum disease. Men between the ages of 40-59 and both men and women ages 20-39 who ate less than 500mg per day of calcium from foods were almost twice as likely to have gum disease as those consuming higher levels.

Gum disease is quite common. In fact, three out of four people over the age of 35 have periodontal problems, the major cause of tooth loss in adults. In its early stage, when symptoms are mild and cause little discomfort, gum disease can go unnoticed. The environment that promotes gum disease is established when bacteria adhere to teeth and form plaque. Dentists call this early stage-when gums can become red and may bleed with brushing-gingivitis. If caught early and treated with diligent brushing and flossing, further damage can be prevented. However, the more advanced condition is called periodontitis, the condition examined in this study. At this stage, the gums and the alveolar bone that support the teeth can be seriously damaged. However, people who consume a diet rich in calcium during the growth period when bone is forming and, as this study suggests, as adults when bone is constantly being remodeled, may be better able to withstand the effects of periodontitis. This is an area that deserves further research to better understand the effect of calcium on oral health. Left unanswered, for example, is the question of why the relationship was seen in middle-aged men but not in women of this age group and not among older adults.

In order to protect and keep a full set of teeth, dentists have long recommended that people brush twice a day, floss at least once, and have a professional cleaning twice a year. These new data suggest that a calcium-rich diet may also contribute to healthy teeth and gums. CyberDiet, and the Vegetarian Resource Group provide lists of foods that are good sources of calcium. Although this study did not consider calcium from supplements, previous research on the effects of calcium on bone health demonstrate that it is as effective as calcium from dietary sources. It is important to keep in mind, however, that calcium is only one of several nutrition and lifestyle components essential for healthy bones and teeth.

Source

  • Calcium and the risk for periodontal disease. M. Nishida,  et al., Journal of Periodontology, 2000, vol. 71, pp. 1057--1066

 

Related Links
Gum Disease, The American Dental Association Online
Topics in Osteoporosis: Oral Manifestations of Bone Loss, National Institutes of Health
What are Periodontal Diseases? The American Academy of Periodontology
Tufts University's Nutrition

Created on: 09/07/2000
Reviewed on: 12/23/2009

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