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Calcium Helps Prevent Gum Disease
Most people know that calcium is an important mineral that helps keep our bones strong. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the body is stored in the bones and teeth; the remaining one percent circulates in the bloodstream and is necessary for muscles to contract, blood to clot and nerves to carry their messages. Calcium intake is well known for its ability to help prevent the damaging effects of osteoporosis, but may also help limit bone loss around the tooth roots caused by periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a bacterial film that continuously forms on the teeth and gums. Over time, gum disease can cause bad breath, puffy and bleeding gums, loose teeth, and teeth that fall out. There are many contributing factors that can increase the risk and severity of gum disease. These factors include: heredity; those who have medical problems that affect the immune system, such as leukemia, diabetes or AIDS; medical conditions or treatments that reduce the flow of saliva, such as Sjogren Syndrome; dysfunction or removal of the salivary glands, those who have undergone cancer chemotherapy or radiation, or who take any of the hundreds of prescription drugs that can cause dry mouth; and habits such as smoking, poor oral hygiene, emotional stress and malnutrition. One new risk factor, low calcium intake, should also be considered to potentially contribute to gum disease.

A recent study revealed that woman who had low dietary calcium intake (2-499 mg/day) had a 54 percent increase in the risk of developing gum disease. Women with moderate calcium intake (500-799 mg/day) had a 27 percent increase in risk. Men did not show any change in the severity of gum disease with low calcium intake.

The most important ways to prevent gum disease are with regular brushing and flossing as well as professional dental cleanings at least twice a year. Women should also be sure to eat a balanced diet that has a sufficient supply of calcium. Good sources of calcium can be found in milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables, nuts, grains, beans, canned salmon and sardines.

Written by Dr. Jerry Gordon  
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