Calcium deficiency during pregnancy can have implications for both the mother and the developing baby. It may also affect her oral health, but probably not in the way you think…
Calcium is essential for the growth and development of the fetus. During pregnancy, this mineral is directly absorbed through the placenta by the fetus. Due to the increased calcium demands, it is generally recommended that pregnant women consume a higher intake of calcium, to ensure that there is enough for the developing baby’s needs while also supporting your own calcium requirements.
If the expectant mother does not consume sufficient amounts of calcium, the body will prioritize the needs of her developing baby. In this case, the calcium required by the fetus may be obtained from the mother’s bones, which can potentially lead to bone density loss or osteoporosis in the woman.
However, contrary to popular belief, the calcium in our teeth remains unaffected. Our teeth have their own mineralized structure and do not release calcium to meet the baby’s calcium needs.
That said, hormonal changes during pregnancy significantly increase the susceptibility of women to gum disease and tooth decay, and reduced calcium intake will reduce your ability to fight against them. So, adequate vitamin D and calcium intake is recommended to reduce the risk of tooth loss associated with periodontitis (gum disease).
Impact of Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency on Oral health during pregnancy
Reports often suggest an increased incidence of tooth loss with a higher number of pregnancies, though this is linked to a variety of factors such as socioeconomic position, dental care visits, smoking, diabetes, and lack of certain vitamins, such as vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol) have been linked to attachment loss, a symptom of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that form a biofilm on teeth and release acid, which leaches calcium from teeth and bones, leading to tooth loss. Studies show that the innate immune system, particularly the human cathelicidin LL-37 induced by calcitriol (active form of vitamin D), plays a role in fighting bacterial and viral infections, including those related to periodontal disease.
As such, adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium is crucial during pregnancy and lactation, since these periods can rapidly deplete them.
Dental health considerations and Calcium intake for the mother
While calcium deficiency during pregnancy may not directly impact tooth health, it is still crucial to maintain good oral hygiene and consume an adequate amount of calcium to help reduce the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Supporting Gum Health
Pregnant women are more prone to gum disease due to hormonal changes that can lead to increased inflammation and sensitivity. Calcium plays a role in maintaining healthy gum tissues and supporting their integrity. Sufficient calcium intake may help reduce the risk of gum disease by promoting gum tissue health.
Strengthening Tooth Enamel
Calcium is an essential mineral for tooth enamel formation and maintenance. Adequate calcium intake helps strengthen the enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria and reducing the risk of tooth decay.
Promoting Optimal Bone Density
During pregnancy, the developing baby relies on calcium for proper bone growth and development. If the maternal calcium intake is inadequate, the body may draw calcium from the mother’s bones, potentially compromising her dental health. By consuming sufficient calcium, pregnant women can support both their own bone health and the calcium needs of the growing fetus.
Overall Nutritional Balance
Increasing calcium intake during pregnancy is not only important for oral health but also for the overall health of both the mother and the baby. Calcium is involved in numerous physiological processes in the body, and a balanced diet that includes adequate calcium supports overall well-being.
Increased calcium intake to protect against childhood dental caries
A study in Japan examined the relationship between maternal intake of dairy products, including cheese, during pregnancy and the risk of dental caries (tooth decay) in children. The study found that higher maternal intake of total dairy products, yogurt, and cheese during pregnancy was associated with a decreased risk of dental caries in children. Generally, this study suggests that the beneficial effects of prenatal and postnatal dairy product intake may be attributed to calcium intake or other constituents related to calcium.
Another study observed that the amount of calcium intake by pregnant women had an impact on the dental health of their children. The researchers found that children whose mothers received calcium supplements during pregnancy had a significant reduction in dental caries (tooth decay) when they reached around 12 years of age.
It is possible that there is a relationship between maternal calcium intake during pregnancy and the dental health of the child. Teeth mineralization begins during fetal development, so maternal nutrition could influence the mineralization of the child’s tooth enamel.
Previous research has shown that low maternal calcium intake during pregnancy can affect the long-term health of the child, leading to conditions like hypertension, altered lipid profile, obesity, and insulin resistance. This concept is known as fetal programming, where changes that occur during pregnancy have lasting effects throughout the child’s life.
Recommended calcium intake for pregnant and lactating women
The dietary requirement for calcium during pregnancy and lactation is estimated at 200 mg more than ordinary people. The 2013 Nutrition Adequacy Rate recommends:
- At least 1300 mg / day for pregnant women aged less than 30 years
- At least 1200 mg / day for pregnant women over the age of 30 years
This difference is because younger women need more calcium for their own bone growth, compared to older women.
It’s important for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare providers to determine the appropriate vitamin D intake based on individual circumstances and needs.
How to meet calcium needs during pregnancy
To ensure an optimal calcium intake during pregnancy, it is recommended to incorporate calcium-rich foods into the diet, such as:
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach)
- Fortified foods
In some cases, healthcare providers may also recommend calcium supplements if dietary intake alone is insufficient.
In summary, although teeth do not release calcium, maintaining good oral hygiene and consuming a calcium-rich diet are essential for overall dental health during pregnancy. Regular dental check-ups and discussions with healthcare professionals can provide further guidance on maintaining optimal oral and overall health during pregnancy.