Got Calcium? A Healthy Mouth Needs Plenty
When you think of calcium, you probably think of bones. It’s true that this mineral is essential to keeping our bones strong, but calcium is also vital to the health of your teeth. In fact, 99 percent of the body’s calcium reserves are stored in the bones and teeth, where the mineral provides structural support.1
How much do you know about calcium and its important role in your body? Test your knowledge with this true-false quiz.
Aside from strengthening bones and teeth, calcium also helps muscles, blood vessels, and nerves work properly.
True. The mineral is also found in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells. There, it helps muscles and blood vessels function normally, helps regulate hormones and enzymes, and helps transmit nerve impulses.1
Calcium is important only for adult women.
False. Calcium is essential for people in every life stage, from infants to seniors. Babies, children, and teenagers need calcium in order to develop strong bones and teeth; adults need it to maintain a strong skeleton and healthy teeth. Unfortunately, studies show that a huge number of American children, teens, and adults do not get the recommended amount of calcium. A calcium-deficient diet increases your risk of developing osteoporosis, a serious condition in which the bones weaken and are more likely to fracture.1, 2
Osteoporosis can affect the health of your teeth.
True. Researchers say that osteoporosis can cause the jaw bone to weaken. The jaw bone is the “anchor” of the teeth. If it becomes damaged, teeth can loosen and fall out. In fact, women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to lose teeth than women with healthy bones. For denture wearers, bone loss from the jaw bone jaw bone can make it difficult to get dentures to fit or stay securely in the mouth.3
Everyone needs the same amount of calcium.
False. The Dietary Reference Intakes recommended by the National Academy of Sciences vary with age and gender. Infants and toddlers (ages 1 to 3) need 500 milligrams (mg) per day; children ages 4 to 8 need 800 mg per day; older children and teens (ages 9 to 18) need 1,300 mg per day; adults ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg per day; and older adults (ages 51 and older) need 1,200 mg per day. Also, pregnant and nursing mothers younger than age 19 need 1,300 mg per day; pregnant and nursing mothers ages 19 and older need 1,000 mg per day. It is also important to note that adequate amounts of vitamin D are required for your body to absorb calcium from food.1
The time in your life when you need the most calcium is after menopause.
False. According to the National Academy of Sciences, adolescents between ages 9 and 18 need the most calcium per day: 1300 mg. Women ages 51 and older are the next group that needs more calcium. They require 1200 mg per day.1
Not getting enough calcium can raise your risk for periodontal (gum) disease.
True. In studies of calcium intake and gum disease, the participants with the healthiest teeth consumed more than 800 mg of calcium each day. At the same time, those who consumed less than 500 mg of the mineral each day were 54 percent more likely to develop gum disease.4
You can strengthen your bones with nonimpact exercise such as swimming or bicycling.
False. Weight-bearing exercise—activities that require your bones and muscles to work against gravity while supporting your weight—are best for making bones stronger and denser. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are walking, jogging, aerobic dance, and weight training. Swimming and bicycling are good for your cardiovascular health, but are not weight-bearing exercises.1, 2
Green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and collard greens, provide calcium.
True. The best sources of calcium are dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.5 However, certain green, leafy vegetables are also rich in calcium. Calcium-fortified juice and breakfast cereal as well as canned sardines and salmon (with bones) are other good choices to boost your calcium intake.1, 2
Your bone mass and skeleton become more fragile as you age.
True. But you can take steps to cut back on the loss of bone mass by getting enough calcium in your diet and incorporating weight-bearing exercise into your lifestyle. Avoiding tobacco and keeping alcohol use moderate will also help protect your bones and teeth.1, 3
1 “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.” Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium.asp Accessed 2010.
2 “Calcium and Bone Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 9, 2008. www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html Accessed 2010.
3 “Oral Health and Bone Disease.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health. www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Oral_Health/default.asp Accessed 2010.
4 ““Nutrition Fact Sheet: Debunking Dairy Food Myths.” American Dietetic Association. January 18, 2005. www.eatright.org/search.aspx?search=dairy&type=Documents Accessed 2010.
5 “Healthier Eating: Getting Where You Need To Be.” American Dietetic Association. www.eatright.org/search.aspx?search=calcium+intake&type=Site Accessed 2010.