Calcium is a critical mineral for your 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. 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 on calicium.
What is Calcium?
Calcium is an essential and abundant mineral in the body that is needed to preserve bone strength and allow the proper communication of the brain and other body parts.
It’s necessary for optimal bone and oral health — to build and keep bones and teeth healthy. The chemical element also helps muscles, nerves, and cells function correctly. It supports the function and synthesis of blood cells. It also 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. It’s only through childhood and adolescence that we can build a foundation for healthy bones and teeth. 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 as well. Infants, for instance, typically still rely on their mother’s milk for sustenance. Because human milk is highly nutritious, and infants are very tiny, babies need only 700 mg of calcium daily. 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’s also during this time 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. Premature 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. According to a 1999 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), optimal intake for children aged 9-18 lies between 1,200-1,500 mg per day. This said, there are ways to fill up this requirement.
For one, parents may opt to provide calcium supplements to kids who are genuinely at risk. The AAP study notes that supplementing calcium to children as young as six may produce beneficial effects. Although, the benefits have yet to be fully looked into.
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.
Research found that those who consume less than what the 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 the 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.