Role of Calcium in Teeth Development
Article by Dr. Sneha Inamdar (Dentist) Mumbai
Calcium plays an important role in keeping our bones and teeth strong. In addition to building bones and providing structural support to the body, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. According to the National Institutes of Health, 99% of calcium is deposited in your bones and teeth. As Calcium plays such a critical role in the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, your body’s need for calcium begins long before you are born and continues all along with your life. Calcium is equally required in the development of permanent and primary teeth or milk teeth. Vitamin D plays an important role in balancing the calcium and phosphate absorption in the body, as well as the calcium absorption in tooth development.
IMPORTANCE OF CALCIUM IN TEETH
Calcium aids in maintaining periodontal health and retaining teeth among adults. It is vital in the growth and maintenance of calcified oral tissues which contain the structure of teeth themselves and the bone in which they are rooted. Mineralized tissues of the tooth including enamel, cementum, and dentin have properties different from the bone. Every tooth is made up of the coronal part or crown part and the root part.
The enamel covering of the coronal part of the tooth is predominantly composed of large, densely packed calcium phosphate molecules called hydroxyapatite crystals. Calcium and phosphate combine to form a hard tooth structure. It is the hardest tissue in the body as it has an advanced percentage of minerals (96%), as related to water and organic material in evaluation to that of bone. Dental plaque that adheres to the tooth surface has many bacterial communities that produce acid. Because of its toughness, Enamel can protect your teeth against these acids which result in tooth decay. In favorable conditions hydroxyapatite has the ability to repair itself after an acid attack. Adequate calcium-rich food ensures that our teeth are protected by maintaining strong bones, as well as ideal calcium levels in your saliva. This calcium in our saliva is needed to drive the remineralization of teeth following acid challenges. Cementum is the calcified layer that covers the exterior surface of the root. However, the mineral composition of cementum is 50%. Below the enamel or cementum layers and directly surrounding the pulpal cavity is the dentin. It consists of 70% minerals and mostly collagen. Sockets in the alveolar bone anchor the roots of teeth and provide support to them. In a healthy jaw, this bone completely encases the root as it reaches the junction of coronal enamel and root cementum.
IMPORTANCE OF CALCIUM BEFORE TEETH ERUPTION
Mineralization or calcification of the milk teeth begins around 4 months in utero. Calcification of permanent teeth begins around birth and continues until they erupt in the mouth which is between 6 to 13 years. During formation, enamel and cementum have a vascular system for supplying nutrients for calcification. This vascular system is severed at the time of the eruption. Hence the critical time when an imbalance in calcium nutrition will have its major effect on tooth structure is during pregnancy and childhood. Research data indicates that diet deficient in calcium or diet with low calcium to phosphorous ratio (1: 3) will result in:
- Hypo mineralization defects in Enamel and Dentin
- Small tooth size
- Delayed eruption
- Low total tooth weight
IMPACT OF CALCIUM ON ALVEOLAR BONE AND CALCIUM DEFICIENCY
In an adult primary effect of calcium nutrition on oral tissues is on alveolar bone. The experiments on animals show that reduced calcium content of the diet or decreased calcium to phosphorous ratio results in osteoporosis in the jaw and alveolar crest along with thinning of the trabeculae pattern in other long bones. Restoring calcium intake to adequate levels reverses these signs throughout the skeleton. Researchers suggest that jaws exhibit osteoporotic changes first, before its evident in other areas of the body, but this has been disputed.
Low calcium levels can lead to fragile bones, osteopenia, the precursor of osteoporosis. Hypocalcemia is a medical term for low levels of calcium in the blood.
If the body doesn’t get enough calcium from food, it will remove calcium from bones. Ideally, the calcium which is “borrowed” from the bones may be replaced at a later point. But this need not always happen; in addition, it can’t be accomplished simply by eating more calcium.
Along with bones, it can also affect teeth as it can cause the jaw bone to become weak. The jaw bone is actually an anchor for your teeth and hence if it becomes brittle (due to lack of calcium), it is more likely that teeth will loosen and possibly fall out. Women in specific, are three times more susceptible to losing their teeth if they have osteoporosis than those with healthy bones.
Having enough calcium is important for people of all ages, though the quantity may vary. The National Academy of Sciences advises different dietary intakes of calcium-based on gender and age. For example, children in their growth years and pregnant women need more calcium than adults. The demand for calcium ranges from 200mg for babies to 1300mg for pregnant women and teenagers.
CALCIUM RICH FOOD
As it is clear that you need more calcium in your diet, you should stress on including calcium-rich foods in your diet. It is more important because of the fact that our bodies cannot produce their own calcium. The best source of calcium is dairy products such as milk, curd, and cheese. Other foods like green, leafy vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, oranges, and cereals also contain calcium. In addition, sesame seeds and almonds are also rich sources of calcium. Calcium supplements are needed in case you don’t get sufficient calcium from foods. The amount of calcium you need from a supplement may vary depending on how much you get from food.
Thus, there is a deep relationship between teeth and calcium. A calcium-rich diet along with maintenance of good oral hygiene can help fight dental disease and ensure strong bones for you and your family.