The essential mineral for a healthy smile
When you think about calcium, the first thing that may come to mind is its role in building strong bones. Yet it does so much more than that. Calcium is needed to help your heart and nerves work properly and for your blood to clot.
But one of this multi-tasking mineral’s most important purposes is to keep your smile healthy. In fact, almost all of the body’s calcium is found in your teeth and bones. Here’s why your teeth need calcium and how you can work it into your diet.
Calcium is vital for your teeth.
Acids caused by bacteria in your mouth can cause cavities by dissolving minerals – like calcium – from your enamel. Calcium protects and strengthens the enamel on the outside of your teeth, which helps ward off decay. Calcium in your saliva can also repair the places acid has damaged, working in conjunction with other minerals like fluoride and phosphorous (which also helps calcium build strong teeth).
Many foods are rich in calcium.1, 2, 3
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are the most common sources of calcium. But there are additional ways to get calcium – even if you avoid dairy products. Nondairy alternatives are especially valuable for those that are lactose intolerant, vegan or allergic to dairy.
Dark green leafy vegetables are a great option as several varieties are rich in calcium, including kale, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, edamame, okra, collards and turnip greens.
Additional sources of calcium include:
- Calcium-fortified soy, almond or rice milk (look for low-sugar varieties)
- Lactose-free milk
- Canned salmon and sardines (due to tiny, soft bones)
- Tofu (check the ingredients for calcium sulfate)
- Soybeans, along with garbanzo, white, kidney and navy beans
- Calcium supplements
Vitamin D plays a key role in oral health, too.
Because it helps the body absorb calcium from food, Vitamin D is also necessary for strong teeth. A vitamin D deficiency may decrease the absorption of calcium by as much as two-thirds.4
You can find vitamin D in:
- Exposure to sunshine (still wear sunscreen!)
- Milk and soymilk fortified with vitamin D
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D supplements
As you make your next shopping list, keep your healthy smile in mind and look for foods high in calcium and vitamin D.