The essential mineral | Sources of calcium for a healthy smile

When you hear the word ‘calcium,’ the first thing that comes to mind is how it helps build strong bones. But it does much more for your body. Calcium is needed to help your heart and nerves work properly and for your blood to clot.

But one of its 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 to include multiple sources of calcium into your diet. Brand guidelines are not headline caps, but small case

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 prevent decay.

Calcium in your saliva can also repair the places acid has damaged, which it does by working together with other minerals like fluoride and phosphorous (which also helps calcium build strong teeth).

Many foods are sources of calcium

Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are the most common sources of calcium. But there are other ways to get calcium. Nondairy alternatives are especially valuable for those that are lactose intolerant, vegan or allergic to dairy.

Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium, including kale, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, edamame, okra, collards and turnip greens.

Other sources of calcium include:

  • Calcium-fortified soy, almond or rice milk (look for low-sugar varieties)
  • 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

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.

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.

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