Few of us grew up understanding exactly what foods were good for our health, beyond “don’t eat too much sugar or fatty meats.” Even fewer have known that nutrition can play an essential part in your oral health and that dental health affects your overall wellness (since periodontal bacteria can spread through the body and increase the risk for everything from diabetes to cardiovascular disease).
As people age, however, they learn the vitamins and minerals do play a vital role in the density of their bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, it has been long understood that you will likely eventually suffer from osteoporosis, the thinning of bones that makes them at high risk for fracture.
More recently, it has been recognized that 500 mg. of calcium and 700 International Units of D taken daily can keep teeth from being lost, as reported by WebMD:
“Studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D supplementation…may improve tooth retention, along with routine dental care and good oral hygiene,” said Elizabeth Krall, MPH, PhD, the lead author of a study and a researcher at Boston University Dental School and Tufts University Nutrition Research Center. The results included a 40% reduction in tooth loss over the following two years, compared with a control group that took placebos. One reason is that as we age, the jawbone loses density even faster than bones elsewhere in the body.
Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption, which is why they are usually taken together. The American Dietetic Association recommends not exceeding more than 2,500 mg. a day for calcium and 1,000 units of D.
Cheese is rich not only in calcium, but a protein called casein, which helps build tooth enamel. Cheese is also a good source of D. D formation can be stimulated by spending some time in the sun, but those with darker skin have difficulty meeting their requirements this way.
Often overlooked among minerals is magnesium, even though it has many uses by the body, including preventing high blood pressure, diabetes, and complications in pregnancy. It is found in nuts, whole grains, beans, seeds, and dark leafy vegetables. It helps calcium be absorbed if it is taken as a supplement in half the amount: so 1,000 calcium mg. would be matched with 500 mg. of magnesium.
To be sure you maintain good oral health, rinse your mouth with water after drinking sugary beverages or eating high-sugar foods. Maintain a regular schedule of dental exams with your dentist. Keep brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing at night to prevent the plaque developing on which bacteria feed that emit acids that harm teeth.