I’m 56, but my teeth and gums don’t look a day over 30. And it’s not just because I’m a dentist. Many people my age have gums that have receded, which means their gums have essentially pulled away from teeth and created pockets where bacteria thrive. If the pockets grow large enough, teeth become loose.
To prevent this, do what I do: Brush, floss, eat right and take a couple of extra nutrients. Here, my four must-have supplements for strong teeth and healthy gums:
CoQ10. Every day, I chew a supplement that contains 60 mg of coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, an antioxidant that helps maintain the soft tissues in your body -- including your gums. Some early research suggests that taking CoQ10 can even help shrink the pockets caused by gum disease.
Calcium. My CoQ10 chewable supplement also contains calcium, a mineral found in your jawbone. If you don’t get enough calcium, your jaw weakens, loosening your teeth. Men and women from ages 19 to 49 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, while those over 50, like me, require 1,200 mg. A cup of milk or yogurt packs about 300 mg, and an ounce of most cheeses has around 200 mg. You can find a cool calcium calculator at bestbonesforever.gov. It’s designed for teens -- the group that has the highest calcium requirements -- but anyone can use it by inputting his or her age.
Vitamin D. To absorb calcium, your body needs vitamin D. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a full third of Americans don’t get enough. I follow the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation and get at least 400 IU daily. Milk has about 100 IU per cup, and a 3-ounce serving of fattier fish, like salmon or mackerel, contains about 300 IU. If you don’t drink milk or eat fish, you could probably use a supplement of 400 IU daily.
Vitamin C. There’s one more super-important nutrient for your teeth: vitamin C. It’s a building block for collagen, which helps keep your teeth attached to your gums. A study in the Journal of Periodontology found that men and women who consumed less than 60 mg of vitamin C daily were 150 percent more likely to have gum disease than people who took in at least 180 mg. Fruit and veggies are the major sources of vitamin C (one orange alone has 60 mg). I get enough C in my diet, but if you don’t, consider taking a supplement.
Tip: Avoid fizzy supplements.
Don’t buy the chewable vitamin-C tablets or any kind of supplement that fizzes when you dissolve it in water. Chewable and fizzy vitamins lower the pH in your mouth and erode your tooth enamel big-time. In fact, a recent study from the University of Helsinki found that fizzy supplements, including those containing calcium, caused teeth to lose minerals. The worst offenders were the fizzy vitamin-C supplements -- they corroded the teeth so much that the layer below the enamel was exposed.
A healthy smile can help you look years younger. Just think about your diet, and weigh your need for my four favorite supplements.
Dr. David Tecosky is a dentist and spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry. He practices in Philadelphia. This is his first contribution appearing in Completely You.
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