Calcium, Vitamin D Help You Hold on to Those Pearly Whites

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 29, 2001 -- Losing teeth is certainly not a welcome part of aging. But medical research has found something simple and cheap that you can do to help hold on to those pearly whites.

Researchers at the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine found that calcium and vitamin supplements help preserve that beautiful smile.

Calcium and vitamin D have long been touted as crucial in building and preserving bone strength to ward off osteoporosis. But doctors didn't know if this worked for all the bones in the body -- including the teeth.

Lead researcher Elizabeth A. Krall, PhD, and colleagues examined 145 healthy men and women aged 65 and older who had taken either calcium plus vitamin D supplements or placebo as part of a study to determine the effect on bone loss in the hip. The calcium was given at a dose of 500 mg and vitamin D at 700 IU daily.

Those who had taken the calcium and vitamin D supplements lost fewer teeth. The researchers found that 27% of the placebo group, but only 13% of the supplement group, lost one or more teeth during the three-year study.

Once the study was finished, the researchers continued to count teeth for a couple of more years. Again, they found that those taking in at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day were able to hold on to more teeth. Just 40% of those consuming this much calcium -- in their diet and/or supplements -- had lost one or more teeth compared to 59% of people who consumed less.

The research is published in the Oct. 15 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Calcium is a vital part of bone, and vitamin D is necessary for the calcium to be absorbed from the intestines. Maintaining an adequate amount of both is crucial for preserving bone strength.

You can get calcium from a variety of foods, especially low-fat dairy foods, including skim milk and low-fat yogurt. Here are some general guidelines to follow on how much calcium you should be getting from your diet and supplements every day:

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  • Young adults 18-24: 1,200-1,500 mg per day
  • Adults 25-65: 1,000 mg per day
  • Adults over 65: 1,500 mg per day
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 1,200-1,500 mg per day

The best sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and milk, which is fortified with vitamin D. Here are some guidelines to follow on how much vitamin D your should get getting from your diet and supplements every day:

  • Adults 19-50: 200 IU
  • Adults 51-69: 400 IU
  • Adults 70 and over: 600 IU

Getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D is vital for maintaining proper bone health, and now it looks like it can also help you hold on to those teeth for a few more years.

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