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It is believed that calcium in foods and supplements strengthens teeth – and that during pregnancy, due to the baby’s need for this element, calcium can “leave” the teeth. But is it really possible to nourish the teeth with calcium, which enters the body with food, “from the inside” – or in the same way to wash it out of the enamel? And is it possible to replenish the mineral substances lost by the teeth “outside”, with the help of toothpaste? We asked these questions to an expert.
dentist, author of the Dental Jedi Telegram channel
The role of calcium for the human body is enormous: it is needed for strong healthy bones, muscle contraction, heart and nervous system activity, normal blood clotting and hormone secretion. Almost all of the body’s calcium is found in bones and teeth in the form of hydroxyapatite – and it is to this compound that they owe their density. The circulatory system, intercellular fluid, muscles and other tissues account for only about 1% of calcium. Bone tissue is a kind of reservoir: if necessary, it releases the amount of calcium that the body needs for urgent needs, after which it is rebuilt.
As a medical practitioner, I often hear phrases like “I got caries on several teeth, I was advised to take vitamins with calcium, but it didn’t help” or “I don’t want to treat caries, can I just take calcium to strengthen my teeth?”. But the catch is that soon after the eruption of a tooth it becomes impossible to “nourish” it with minerals from the bloodstream – that is, those that came with food and were absorbed into the blood.
The fact is that the level of calcium and other essential minerals in the tissues of the tooth is formed at the stage of its development with the participation of genetically inherent mechanisms . After the teeth have finished their formation, after the eruption of the tooth and the end of its mineralization, the process of absorption of minerals directly from the bloodstream stops. In other words, you can drink vitamins as much as you like, but if you are not a child or teenager, the density of your teeth cannot be influenced in this way, since they are already fully formed.
You can drink vitamins as much as you like, but if you are not a child or teenager, the density of your teeth cannot be influenced in this way.
As for pregnant women – indeed, during pregnancy, more calcium is needed for the harmonious formation of the baby’s tissues (including teeth), but there is no evidence that the baby “takes” calcium from the mother’s teeth when it is lacking. Dental problems during and after pregnancy are associated with other factors, such as increased acidity in the mouth due to belching or vomiting. After vomiting, when the enamel is under the influence of acid, you need to rinse your mouth – but brushing at this moment can harm your teeth. Caries of pregnant women is also promoted by deterioration in hygiene, including due to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) associated with changes in hormonal levels, and increased consumption of carbohydrates when a woman is advised to “eat for two,” and refusal to visit the dentist and professional teeth cleaning.
At the same time, an experiment was conducted in which women received dietary supplements with calcium throughout their pregnancy. Their children had a lower prevalence of tooth decay for twelve years than the children of women who did not take extra calcium. It turns out that pregnant women should take calcium to strengthen the teeth of the unborn child, and in order to improve the condition of their own, they should regularly visit the dentist, establish hygiene and follow the diet.
In another placebo-controlled study , elderly people (over 65 years of age) received calcium and vitamin D supplements for three years, and then followed up for another two years. As a result, the loss of teeth in those who took calcium, rather than placebo, was less – but this was due to the strengthening of the bone tissue of the jaws, that is, in fact, better fixation of the teeth in the jaw, and not the strengthening of the enamel.
Cheese is not a substitute for brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day – but it can be a good addition to tooth decay prevention
The enamel consists of the so-called enamel prisms , which in turn are made of calcium hydroxyapatite . At the initial stage of caries, under the influence of acid, minerals are “washed out” of the enamel hydroxyapatite; this process is called demineralization. Gradually, a “hole” forms in the enamel – a carious cavity. White matte spots on the teeth, the so-called chalky – as if drawn with chalk – this is also caries, but only at the very early stage, and it can still be cured without a drill and filling. For this, in contrast to demineralization, enamel remineralization is carried out – that is, its saturation with mineral components.
For remineralization , fluorides (fluorine compounds) and calcium are used – not in pure form, but in the form of amorphous calcium phosphate . It has been proven that the best results can be achieved using the combination of this calcium compound with fluorides. For these purposes, pastes , rinses, foams with amorphous calcium phosphate, as well as professional remineralization at the dentist are suitable . It turns out that you can strengthen your teeth, that is, saturate them with minerals, only from the outside, but not from the inside.
Experts at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend eating a slice of cheese for dessert – and this is also one of the options for remineralization. Cheeses such as Swiss cheese, cheddar and mozzarella stimulate the production of saliva, which cleans out food debris from the mouth and acts as a buffer to neutralize acids. Calcium and phosphorus in cheese also reduce or prevent saliva acidification and help remineralize enamel. Of course, cheese isn’t a substitute for brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day and getting regular dental check-ups – but it can be a good addition to caries prevention for people with weakened enamel, especially when substituted for sweets.
Of course, the prevention of caries is in the second place remineralization, and in the first place, the prevention of demineralization in all possible ways. To do this, you need to eliminate the factors that contribute to caries: bacteria that produce acid, and their nutrient medium, carbohydrates. This means that in order to prevent caries, you need to thoroughly brush your teeth, regularly undergo professional hygiene, eat a balanced diet and not abuse carbohydrates, especially those in your mouth for a long time – like caramel or toffee.