Reviewed by Dr. Izbel Aksit.
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals found in our bodies. In fact, it makes up 99% of the bones and teeth. Even though it’s a micronutrient, its presence has a macro impact on the normal growth and development of the body. Aside from supporting bone and tooth development, it aids blood clotting, hormone secretion, muscle contraction, and the transmission of nerve signals. So, its deficiency can have wide-reaching implications, one of which is calcium deficiency teeth.
The bad news is that 3.5 billion people around the world are at risk of calcium deficiency. If left untreated, calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia, can be life-threatening. Worst yet, not many people are even aware that they have a calcium deficiency. That is why it’s important to understand what it is and how it affects the body, the teeth, in particular, because the first signs of calcium deficiency may manifest there.
Understanding Calcium Deficiency
It’s normal for the body to dissolve and break down bones whenever there’s a need for calcium. In fact, the way it works is that there are parathyroid glands in the neck region, which release the hormone parathyroid. This stimulates cells in the body to start bone resorption (the opposite of absorption) so that calcium is released into the blood. And this calcium is what helps with muscle contraction and the nervous system.
However, this calcium isn’t lost forever. Because if it were that way, your bones would never grow or stay very weak. What happens is that the body replaces the lost calcium to restore the strength of the bones. But sometimes, due to some reasons, your body doesn’t replace lost calcium as quickly as it loses it; it is a result of low calcium intake. This ends up causing calcium deficiency. And it can manifest in two forms:
- Osteopenia: Mild loss of bone mass due to calcium deficiency.
- Osteoporosis: Osteopenia can progress into osteoporosis which is a more severe loss of bone mass and can result in bone fractures. It is permanent and irreversible.
Even as it starts happening, not many people realize that anything’s wrong with their bodies. However, the impacted bones are weakened, and you may end up losing your tooth or fracturing a bone quite out of the blue because of this. For many people, this is the first sign that something’s wrong.
Causes of Calcium Deficiency
There are different causes of this deficiency, which can result in calcium deficiency teeth. Let’s take a look at them:
Ageing is inevitable and, in some people, this is the primary reason why they’re experiencing calcium deficiency. There’s an increase in the breakdown of bones and a decrease in the formation of bones as we age. The body’s ability to store calcium also decreases. And lack of consumption of calcium-rich foods can also worsen the condition. Tooth loss is a common problem among adults and they end up needing dental crowns or implants to maintain their oral health.
Pregnancy and Menopause
During pregnancy, your growing baby needs calcium to develop its own bones, teeth, heart, and nerves. And it gets that calcium from you, the mother. If the mother’s not getting enough calcium into her body, it ends up causing calcium deficiency.
After menopause is another time when women experience this condition. The decrease in the levels of the hormone estrogen negatively affects the absorption of calcium. Thus, the body loses more calcium from the bones than it replaces. Five years after menopause, women can lose as much as 10% of their bone mass.
Some studies show that women lose more of their teeth than men. Again, calcium deficiency teeth combined with other factors such as hormonal changes can result in this problem.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Not many people realize that the calcium deficiency may be arising from the deficiency of vitamin D in the body. Your body cannot absorb calcium without an adequate supply of vitamin D. So, the deficiency of this nutrient can result in calcium deficiency teeth.
There are certain health conditions that also result in the lowering of calcium levels in the blood. An inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease decreases the absorption of calcium in the intestine.
People with coeliac disease also incur damage to the small intestine due to intolerance to gluten, which again results in poor absorption of minerals leading to calcium deficiency teeth and other health problems. Moreover, people who’re lactose intolerant are at a greater risk of this problem, since they’re unable to digest the sugar “lactose” found in milk. This is problematic in that, for many people, milk is their primary source of calcium.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
The symptoms of calcium deficiency depend on the severity of the condition. You may experience anxiety, sleep problems, mood changes, numbing sensation around the mouth, muscle spasms, tremors, and convulsions.
If the bones and teeth are very weak, you might have your teeth break quite easily and end up fracturing your bones. It can also result in an abnormal heartbeat. Other symptoms include a feeling of extreme tiredness and loss of appetite. Since it affects bone health, you may also have posture issues and consequent back pain.
Relationship Between Calcium Deficiency and Teeth
There are more than just a few ways in which calcium impacts the teeth. Knowing them will help you prevent calcium deficiency teeth. These are as follows:
Strengthen Tooth Enamel
There’s a reason why you’re encouraged to consume more dairy products growing up. Not only does it help in the development of healthy bones, but also strong teeth. One way calcium does that is by strengthening the enamel. One study published in the Australian Dental Journal in 2008 shows that it even prevents the demineralization of the enamel, thus preventing calcium deficiency teeth.
Prevents Tooth Loss
If you consume more calcium-rich foods, you’ll also prevent tooth loss. When bone loss begins, it can first impact the (alveolar) bone which holds your teeth in place. The weakening of the jawbones means that the tooth isn’t held as firmly in place. According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, people who don’t consume enough calcium are at greater risk of losing their teeth. Taking calcium together with vitamin D can reduce the risk of this happening, according to a report by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Toronto.
Of the many oral health complications that result from hypocalcemia, one is dental cavities. Lower levels of calcium can result in the formation of more dental cavities, according to a research study published in the Clinical Oral Investigations in 2015. It may result from damage to the tooth enamel (due to calcium deficiency teeth) and can also result in tooth decay.
You need to consume calcium to keep your teeth healthy. That’s because the absence of this essential mineral can also increase the risk of gum diseases. The decrease in bone density can also worsen the periodontal disease occurring from low calcium levels.
This is a condition that results from overexposure to fluoride. In such instances, calcium can decrease the ability of absorption of fluoride by the teeth, which can prevent the condition from worsening according to research published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Daily Calcium Requirement To Prevent Calcium Deficiency Teeth
The amount of calcium that you need can vary depending on your age, sex, and health. The British Dieticians Association (BDA) has given a daily guideline amount. The NHS, though, states that you need 700 mg of calcium per day if you’re anywhere between 19 and 64.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’re consuming enough calcium, you can refer to the calcium calculator by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). Just bear in mind, more doesn’t always mean better. If you’re taking more than 1,500 mg of calcium per day, you can end up with diarrhoea and pain in the stomach, You may also end up damaging your kidneys and developing stones.
Treatment for Calcium Deficiency Teeth
In order to treat calcium deficiency teeth, you need to consult your doctor first. You may need to do the following:
Eat Calcium-Fortified Foods
One of the best sources of calcium is the food that you eat. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends unsweetened milk and yoghurt for hypocalcemia. Adding green vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, arugula, and peas to your diet can also be helpful in preventing calcium deficiency teeth. Other than that, fish like salmon and sardines can also help. Tofu, black beans and fruits can also increase your calcium intake. You should talk to a nutritionist if you have some dietary restrictions caused by certain health conditions.
Before taking any supplements, consult your doctor about how much you need them. Usually, the recommended dose is around 500-600 mg per day. A lot of the supplements also contain vitamin D in them since it helps in their absorption. Calcium supplements shouldn’t be your primary source of calcium for your oral health as they can cause some health issues.
Preventing Calcium Deficiency Teeth
Prevention is always better than cure. The best way to ensure good dental health and prevent calcium deficiency teeth is by taking enough calcium in the first place. You can prevent it in the following ways:
Quit smoking: Smoking decreases the body’s ability to absorb calcium which it needs to keep the teeth strong. Smoking doesn’t just affect calcium levels, but it also makes the teeth more vulnerable to bacteria and gum disease. This is why losing teeth is more common in smokers. They’re also at a higher risk of oral cancer. This is why it’s best to begin by quitting smoking.
Reduce Consumption of Coffee, Alcohol, and Soft Drinks: All of them affect the absorption of calcium by the bones. Another way that they affect the calcium levels is that if you drink more of these, you drink less calcium-rich beverages that your body needs to strengthen bones and support teeth properly.
Decrease the Amount of Salt in Your Food: More salt means more sodium, and that directly interferes with the calcium levels in the blood. It results in the breakdown of the bones and weakens them. So to keep calcium deficiency teeth at bay, you should consume less salt.
Calcium deficiency has many adverse effects on health. It not only impacts the bones, nerves and muscles but also results in calcium deficiency teeth. The latter condition can result in cavities, decay, and tooth loss. This problem arises from poor calcium intake. It becomes so low that your body breaks down the bones at an accelerated rate to compensate for the low levels of calcium in the blood.
Now, there are different treatment options for this condition. However, the best one is to include more calcium in your dietary sources. In any case, you should consult your doctor.