Calcium is an essential mineral for oral health. It helps your teeth fend off tooth decay and helps generate healthy bones. It does this by strengthening the jawbone, which holds the teeth in place and fortifies the teeth themselves.
This fortification makes teeth less vulnerable to the damage caused by bacteria and oral acids. You’re also less likely to lose teeth when you have the right amount of calcium in your system.
But before we dive into how much calcium you and your child need, let’s take a closer look at calcium.
What is Calcium?
Calcium is an important and abundant mineral in the body that is needed to preserve bone density and it is a major contributing factor to the strength of teeth.
It’s necessary for optimal bone and oral health to build and keep bones and teeth healthy. It also helps muscles, nerves, and cells function correctly. It supports the function and synthesis of blood cells. Additionally, it regulates muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and blood clotting.
How Much Do I Need Every Day?
The minimum daily amount is 1,000 milligrams a day for women ages 50 and below and 1,200 milligrams for women 50 years old and older. Consuming at least 800 milligrams of calcium a day decreases the likelihood of developing gum disease than those who intake 500 milligrams or less of calcium.
A report from Harvard Women’s Health Watch said that the needed minimum daily calcium requirement is not as much as what people have come to believe and what the United States guidelines are saying. Head of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition Dr. Walter Willett said that adults do not necessarily need 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day and will do well with about half as much calcium.
According to Dr. Willett, the 1,200-mg recommendation lacked evidence to support the claim that such an amount can prevent fractures. Dr. Willet added that the calcium balance studies, which was the basis of the recommendation, lasted only a few weeks, shorter than the years needed to determine calcium balance.
Instead of 1,200 milligrams, Dr. Willet suggests about 500 to 700 milligrams, the recommended amount set by the World Health Organization and the United Kingdom.
How Much Does My Child Need?
Getting an adequate amount of calcium during childhood is imperative for healthy adult development. This is due to the fact that we can only build a good foundation for healthy bones and teeth during our childhood and adolescent stages. As calcium absorption lessens over time, getting the needed supplements becomes harder. When your child gets enough calcium while they’re still young, this could certainly benefit their future.
How do you know how much calcium your child needs, then? There are a few things to consider:
It Depends How Old They Are
As your child grows, their bodily needs change, and ultimately their dietary requirements. Infants, for instance, typically rely on their breast milk for sustenance. Because human milk is highly nutritious, and infants are very small. Babies less than six months need only 200mg of calcium daily and those between 6 to 11 months only need 260mg per day.
The bigger they grow and older they become, however, the greater this requirement becomes. A child of 4-8 years, for instance, needs 1,000 mg. And once they turn 9, their calcium intake grows to 1,300 mg per day.
Part of this growing need stems from higher efficiency in calcium absorption once the child reaches adolescence. It is also during this stage of their development that a child begins to develop their peak bone mass. This growth could boost further if they had adequate calcium intake when they were younger. As of now, researchers have yet to delve into the effects of excessive calcium intake.
Is Your Child at Risk of Calcium Deficiency?
Another factor to consider when assessing how much calcium your child needs is their risk factor. Preterm babies, for instance, will require more supplements than babies born full-term. The same goes for older kids.
If your child, for instance, seems to exhibit signs of calcium deficiency, it might be time to up their intake. It has been shown that toddlers require 700mg daily calcium intake through the age of 3 years, and up to 1000mg between the age of 4 and 8 years. This value increases to 1300mg for children between the ages of 9 to 18 years.
For one, parents may opt to provide calcium supplements to kids who are genuinely at risk. Additionally, supplementing calcium to children as young as six may produce beneficial effects in terms of bone development and enamel strength.
Aside from supplementation, however, the best way to ensure that your child gets all the calcium they need is to add calcium-rich foods into their diet. These foods include dairy products, eggs, and calcium-rich vegetables such as broccoli and legumes. The best part? Integrating these foods into their diet doesn’t just fill up their calcium quota. It can aid other aspects of their dental health as well.
What Happens if I Don’t Get Enough Calcium?
It can be problematic. Not receiving the right amount can lead to deterioration and weakening of the bones and teeth, which use most of the body’s calcium. Low calcium can prevent children from reaching their full potential adult height.
It lowers bone mass in adults, which can lead to osteoporosis. It also increases the risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and jaw-joint problems.
According to a study, those who consume less calcium than what their body needs are more likely to develop gum diseases by 54 percent. Additionally, because of the weakening of the teeth, it can become more susceptible to tooth decay.
Getting the right amount of calcium is especially important for infants and toddlers who are still on the stage of developing their first set of teeth. Despite their eventual fallout, primary teeth are vital for the development of permanent or adult teeth as they serve as a guide. If children lose their primary teeth earlier than normal, they can suffer from spacing problems as well as chewing and speaking issues.
Where Can I Get Calcium?
Many foods contain calcium, such as:
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Fortified tofu
- Seafood like sardines and salmon
- Vegetables like broccoli, kale, green beans, and collards
- Fruits like oranges
Is it bad to have a dairy-free diet?
Those who don’t consume dairy products at all aren’t necessarily lacking in the calcium and vitamin D department. As long as one is consuming many other calcium and vitamin D-enriched foods and beverages, such as the ones listed above, one should have no problem with achieving healthy teeth without the consumption of dairy.
A calcium deficiency, however, can not only contribute to oral health-related problems but also muscle tension, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. It’s also important to keep in mind that many dairy products such as raw milk, kefir, and yogurt provide some of the largest sources of calcium and vitamin D.
Just like vitamin D is necessary to properly absorb calcium, magnesium is important in order to activate vitamin D. Unfortunately, most folks are lacking in magnesium. Supplements are typically a must; however, there are great sources of it in non-dairy foods as well:
- Leafy greens
- Dried fruit
- Whole grains
While it’s not absolutely necessary to have a dairy-based diet to have healthy pearly whites, dairy products are one of the biggest sources of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. And they are all important in the absorption of calcium in the first place.
Eating on Time is Important
A diet that promotes good dental health is not only about the foods you eat or lack thereof, it also has to do with when food will be eaten.
Rather than munching on carb-rich, sugary or acidic foods on an empty stomach, consume these foods with other healthy options. Remember, the latter foods are what bacteria and plaque thrive on the most. But consuming these foods shortly after a meal can help reduce the amount of acid exposure plaque releases. The body produces more saliva to aid digestion. In turn, this helps counterbalance acid before it can attack the teeth.
That said, consuming sweets right after a meal or consuming acidic or carb-rich foods during mealtime is your best bet. As well as this, refraining from skipping meals is critical for your body’s health inside and out.
Remember to eat on time, eat foods that are beneficial to your teeth, and brush and floss daily. Having a healthy body and healthy mouth couldn’t be easier.
The Significance of Good Nutrition
The consistency, quality, and nutritional composition of foods, as well as the combination in which they will be eaten, can significantly better our dental health.
Continuous studies reveal that antioxidants and other nutrients contained in legumes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts may help boost one’s immunity. Thus, these foods can greatly enhance the body’s capability to combat inflammation and bacteria. As a result, these benefits can help shield the gums and teeth from harmful bacteria, eliminating the risks of gum disease.
Of course, without proper nutrition, the risks of tooth loss and decay are not only higher, but other health problems may arise.
At Hawaii Family Dental, your child’s teeth is important to us. Feel free to contact us on how we can create winning smiles for your family.