Calcium is an essential mineral — your body doesn’t produce it, so you have to get through your diet. It’s involved in proper growth, development, nervous system and circulatory function, and bone health. Not getting enough calcium in your diet may lead to calcium deficiency.
This can result in a number of symptoms, some of which may affect your teeth. I’m sure you care as much about your smile as I do, so consider these effects of calcium deficiency. This article examines how calcium deficiency may affect your teeth and offers ways to make sure you’re getting enough calcium.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
Approximately 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones and teeth. Not surprisingly, then, most symptoms of calcium deficiency affect these areas. Noticeable symptoms of calcium deficiency may take years to develop because your body self-regulates its calcium balance very tightly.
When blood calcium levels are inadequate, your body may start to divert calcium from your bones and into your bloodstream, muscles, and other intracellular fluids. Over time, this may cause your bones and teeth to weaken, among other potential symptoms.
Calcium deficiency may make your bones more fragile — including your teeth. This may put you at risk of losing teeth. In fact, one clinical trial in 145 older adults found a correlation between poor calcium intake and tooth loss.
During the initial trial, 13% of participants taking calcium and vitamin D supplements and 27% taking the placebo lost at least one tooth. In the 2-year follow-up, 40% of participants who consumed at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and 59% of those who consumed less than that, lost at least one tooth.
In addition to changes in your teeth, calcium deficiency may present as other symptoms. While symptoms vary from person to person, calcium deficiency may affect your body in a myriad of ways.
For instance, some people with calcium deficiency may develop osteopenia or reduced bone mineral density. If untreated, this may become osteoporosis, a more severe disease characterized by weak, porous, fracture-prone bones. Plus, research shows that women with osteoporosis are more likely to experience tooth loss than those who don’t have osteoporosis.
Other potential symptoms of calcium deficiency include:
- nail changes
- extreme fatigue
- abnormal heartbeat
- poor appetite
- numbness and tingling in your fingertips
- muscle cramping
If undiagnosed and untreated, severe calcium deficiency may lead to more serious health complications. In extreme cases, untreated calcium deficiency can be fatal.
Causes of calcium deficiency
Calcium deficiency may be caused by several factors. Some of the most common are kidney failure, surgeries that remove the stomach or alter parts of the digestive tract, and prolonged use of diuretic medications that promote fluid excretion. A poor intake of dietary calcium over a long period may be the most likely culprit for potential calcium deficiency — no surprise, since your body can’t produce calcium on its own.
Your body’s calcium reserves are limited, so be sure to consume plenty of calcium in your diet. Vitamin D is required to maintain normal calcium levels. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D, your body can’t properly absorb calcium, which may increase your risk of calcium deficiency.
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Doctors often prescribe calcium supplements to treat calcium deficiency. Among the most common forms are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
However, recent studies have found that calcium supplements may have negligible effects on preventing bone fractures and may even pose risks to your digestive, heart, and kidney health. If you have low calcium intake or notice changes in your bone or dental health, see your doctor as soon as possible to be evaluated. Expert evaluation offers you a better prognosis compared with trying to self-treat with calcium supplements.
The best approach to keeping your teeth healthy is to practice habits that can help prevent calcium deficiency and weakened bones in the first place. As far as your calcium needs, most experts recommend 1,300 mg per day for children ages 9–18 and 1,000–1,200 mg per day for adults, depending on age range and sex.
The following are some healthy everyday habits for your dental and skeletal health:
- Brush, floss, and go to the dentist for regular dental exams.
- Make a dentist appointment right away for any tooth or mouth concerns.
- Replace your toothbrush at least every 3–4 months after being sick.
- Limit alcohol intake and avoid smoking.
- Include a variety of calcium-rich foods regularly, such as dark leafy greens, sardines, canned salmon, white beans, calcium-set tofu, fortified orange juice and plant-based milk, and dairy products.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables regularly, as these are rich in vitamin C and other nutrients that support bone health.
- Address and prevent vitamin D deficiency through fortified foods, safe sun exposure, and/or use of supplements.
- Practice regular exercise, like running, playing tennis, climbing stairs, or resistance training.
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Calcium is an essential mineral for your health. Most of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones and teeth.
The symptoms of calcium deficiency — which may be caused by factors like prolonged poor dietary intake, medical and surgical procedures, and certain underlying health conditions — may take time to develop.
Keep your teeth healthy by getting enough calcium from food sources, eating a balanced diet, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, getting regular dental exams, and practicing daily oral hygiene.