Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements in Dentistry: Is Anybody There?

In dentistry, we have been promoting the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements for years, but few adults have been paying heed. Often the choice is to take nothing; even when supplements are used, the levels people take vary widely.

The U.S. Institute of Medicines Food and Nutrition Board has recommended a total intake from diet and oral supplementation of 1200 mg/day calcium and 400 IU/day of vitamin D for persons aged 51-70 years. Based on the average intake figures, adult men and women in the U.S. need to consume at least 500 to 600 mg more calcium each day just to meet their minimum needs. Even greater intakes of calcium and vitamin D are needed to offset the deficit conditions adults are already experiencing. Calcium and vitamin D are essential to slow bone resorption and speed bone formation, with a net reduction in bone loss. Vitamin D stimulates the antimicrobial proteins and also helps fight off gum disease.

A survey was recently conducted in the St. Louis area, where calcium and vitamin D levels were evaluated, with differences compared on the basis of gender and race. Ninety-three percent of the subjects demonstrated insufficient calcium and vitamin D intake. Eighty-eight percent took oral calcium supplements, averaging about 800 mg/day. Twenty-nine percent took vitamin D supplements, averaging 430 IU/day. Sixty-four percent took both supplements, and surprisingly, more men than women chose this option!

Thirty-three of the two hundred eight three patients in the study took bone-active prescription drugs, such as Fosamax. Only half of those patients took any supplementation for vitamin D and calcium!

To understand this best, only seven percent of the people in the study met the U.S. Food and Nutrition Boards recommendation. These self-reported levels of supplementation were insufficient to prevent deficiency of the nutrients. In dentistry, the supplementation of vitamin D and calcium is essential for the vast majority of adults over the age of 50 to help prevent tooth loss due to gum disease.

Furthermore, the FDA and other boards, such as the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board, are seriously considering increasing the minimum recommendations fairly significantly, due to the near epidemic proportion of people testing low for vitamin D, as well as the fact that the second biggest health problem in the world -according to the World Health Organization – is osteoporosis. We have not seen such an epidemic of low vitamin D levels since the early 1940s, when the FDA stepped in a required fortification of certain common food products with vitamin D. In 2001, many started noticing the alarming rise in deficient vitamin D levels, and this continues today, leaving many to wonder Why?

For your health – both general and dental – take this type of supplementation if you’re over the age of 50 … regardless. Even better, talk with your physician and have your vitamin D and calcium levels checked, and talk with ALL your healthcare providers about the optimal level of supplementation or dietary intake needed to keep you your healthiest.

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