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Calcium Intake and Tooth Decay

By Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Tooth decay occurs when acid breaks down the surface of your teeth, leading to small holes called cavities or caries. Because calcium is essential for making teeth, it may play a role in helping to prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay can also be prevented using some simple steps to improve oral hygiene.

Tooth decay occurs when acid breaks down the surface of your teeth, leading to small holes called cavities or caries. Because calcium is essential for making teeth, it may play a role in helping to prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay can also be prevented using some simple steps to improve oral hygiene.

Tooth Decay Causes

One of the main factors that contributes to tooth decay is acid-producing bacteria living in the mouth, especially the Streptococcus mutans species. Although tooth decay can come in many forms, one of the most common is called smooth surface decay, which occurs when bacteria dissolve the calcium on the surface of the tooth, the Merck Manual explains. Naturally occurring pits and fissures in the teeth can also serve as a nesting place for bacteria, further allowing them to erode through the calcium-rich surface of the tooth.

Calcium Intake and Tooth Decay

Although calcium is an important component in teeth, there is not much research on calcium intake and tooth decay. One study, published in a 1984 issue of "Caries Research," did not find a link between calcium intake and cavities in children. Another study, published in a 1994 issue of "Fluoride," did find a greater incidence of cavities in children with low calcium intake. This study, however, was on children in India and was also concerned with fluoride levels in the water, so it is not clear if it applies to children in developed countries.

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Calcium-Containing Toothpaste

Although consuming more calcium may not help prevent tooth decay, calcium-containing toothpaste may be beneficial. A study published in a 2013 issue of "Caries Research" found that toothpaste containing arginine --- an amino acid --- as well as a calcium compound was better at preventing cavities than standard toothpaste. This suggests that calcium in some forms may be able to help strengthen and repair teeth.

Tooth Decay Prevention

One mainstay of preventing tooth decay is good oral hygiene, which includes brushing at least twice per day and flossing once per day. Because sugars provide fuel for acid-producing bacteria, sweets should be avoided. Whenever possible, drink water or brush after eating sugary foods. Fluoride, both in drinking water and in toothpaste, can also harden teeth and make them more resistant to acid.

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