Calcium Deficiency and Teeth: Signs and Symptoms

toddler drinking milk

Calcium in Teeth and Bones

According to the Victoria State Government Better Health Channel, the average adult's weight is made up of about two per cent calcium. The University of Western Australia reports that teeth are primarily made up of the mineral hydroxyapatite, which is made up of both calcium and phosphate. Calcium and phosphate combine during tooth development to characteristically form hard tooth structure. Vitamin D plays a key role in balancing calcium and phosphate absorption in the body as well as calcium absorption in tooth development. In baby teeth, the formation of hydroxyapatite (mineralisation) occurs at around four months in utero. In the permanent teeth this occurs from around the time of birth until the age of 13 years, including the third molar (wisdom) teeth.

What is Calcium Deficiency?

Hypocalcaemia, also known as calcium deficiency disease, is a medical condition where calcium levels in the blood serum are low.

If calcium levels are too low, this can lead to osteoporosis (a medical issue where the bones can become fragile from a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D, or hormonal changes) and osteopenia (a medical issue where there is a decrease in bone density; it can be a precursor to developing osteoporosis).

In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a daily calcium intake of 1,300 mg for 14- to 18-year-olds, 1,000 mg for 19- to 70-year-olds, which increases to 1,300 mg for women between 51 and 60 years old, and 1,300 mg for everyone older than 70. The people most often affected by calcium deficiency are post-menopausal women, women with amenorrhoea, vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Medical News Today reports that in 2015, 3.5 billion people were at risk for calcium deficiency globally.

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

University Health News Daily reports that calcium deficiency symptoms may not be easy to detect at first; however, symptoms may include:

• Numbness around the mouth

• Numbness in the hands or feet

• Difficulty swallowing

• Weak or brittle nails

• Tooth decay

• Depression

• Osteoporosis symptoms (back pain, stooped posture)

Osteoporosis can affect the jawbone (alveolar bone) and cause symptoms such as tooth mobility and possibly tooth loss, as well as ill-fitting dentures.

Diet and the Processes of Demineralisation and Remineralisation

What you eat is so important in helping you to maintain optimal calcium levels in your body and mouth. Victoria State Government Better Health Channel states that calcium-rich foods include milk and milk products like cheese and yoghurt, fish like sardines and salmon, leafy green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, calcium-fortified juices, nuts, sesame seeds and fortified cereals and breads. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can help you get the level of calcium you need and help to protect your teeth by maintaining optimal levels of calcium in your saliva.

We need calcium in our saliva to drive the remineralisation of the teeth following acid challenges, which result in the loss of minerals from the teeth (demineralisation).

We can minimise acid challenges by reducing the amount and frequency of sugary foods and drinks and acidic drinks in our diets.

Good Dental Health

It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Th fluoride enhances the remineralisation process and helps strengthen the enamel. Flossing once a day before bedtime will help to remove plaque and food debris between teeth and at the gumline. Consult your doctor to check calcium levels and determine whether calcium supplementation is needed to get you back to your healthiest and best self.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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