Calcium plays a key role in promoting oral health, and maintaining healthy bones. Here’s everything you need to know about why calcium is important to a healthy diet.
What is Calcium?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and supports healthy bodies in many ways. Calcium is required for a healthy heart, helps with muscle function, and aides in nerve transmission. Although most of the body’s calcium is stored in teeth and bones (around 99%), it plays a large role in aiding vital bodily functions outside of teeth and bones.
Calcium and Teeth
Calcium aides in the formation of young teeth, and plays a key role in creating a healthy jaw that can support both new and adult teeth. In fact, teeth and bones are mostly made out of calcium. Both are constantly remodeling through the resorption and deposit of calcium, which means that they rely upon calcium intake to power the process that maintains healthy bones.
Calcium is also a dental super mineral, because it neutralizes damaging acids and is a great enamel protector. Enamel is the first line of defense for teeth, so it’s important to keep it strong. Dairy products neutralize damaging acids that eat away teeth and are rich in casein, an enamel protecting substance.
Sources of Calcium
Luckily, many foods that children love have an abundant amount of calcium. For instance, cheese, yogurt, milk – even vanilla ice cream – all contain a significant amount of calcium. Most of the best sources of calcium are dairy products, but leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli and bok choy are also healthy sources of calcium. Dr. James Park, DMD, a dentist in La Habra that we often talk to talks about how you can also get calcium from dietary supplements and multivitamins.
We suggest packing your child’s lunch with a small serving of cheese, or yogurt so that they can get closer to their recommended daily requirement of calcium. Or, you can also give them a small box of milk, which is packed with calcium.
Daily Calcium Requirements for Children
Children need calcium to develop strong teeth and bones, while adults need calcium to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Your child’s calcium intake will vary as they get older. Provided below is the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) recommended dietary allowances for children:
0–6 months: 200 mg
7–12 months:260 mg
1–3 years: 700 mg
4–8 years: 1,000 mg
9–13 years: 1,300 mg
14–18 years: 1,300 mg
For reference, 8 oz of plain low-fat yogurt contains 415 mg of calcium, 8 oz of milk contains 284 mg of calcium, and 1 cup of cooked kale contains 94 mg of calcium. Check the NIH site for more information about the amount of calcium in popular foods.
Try to add at least one dairy product to each of your child’s meals to provide them with adequate amount of calcium. If your family does not consume dairy, try introducing some of these other calcium-rich foods: almond milk, canned fish, kale, soy yogurt or soy beans. If you’re buying packaged food as a calcium source, check the packaging to ensure that there is an adequate amount.
Is Your Child’s Diet Mouth-Healthy?
A mouth-healthy diet is an important part of maintaining optimal oral health. If you’re concerned about how your child’s diet may be affecting their teeth, then bring them into our office. We will evaluate their smiles and offer a variety of treatment options that fit their case. We can also give you tips on eating for better oral health, and point out food that can lead to tooth decay.