Calcium: Essential Nutrition for Teeth and Bones

By Christopher Hobbs, Elson Haas

Calcium is a critical mineral nutrient. You must include calcium in your diet because your body can’t manufacture it. Calcium is essential for the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth.

The strength of your bones depends on calcium and other minerals like silicon and magnesium that you absorb from your diet, particularly during your years of growth and development. Calcium is also important for nerve conductivity, for muscle contraction (including normal heartbeats), and for cell division. Also, the cells of your body require calcium, along with magnesium, to properly transmit nerve impulses.

Key functions of calcium include:

  • May promote a sound night’s sleep when taken before bed.

  • Supports bone health, especially if you are a woman during and after menopause, for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis (the increased porosity of bones common during aging).

    Osteoporosis commonly leads to fractures and even mortality. The risk increases in women, especially during the first ten years after menopause. You should consult your doctor to determine your bone strength and begin a complete bone-strengthening supplement program.

  • Reduces muscle cramps and menstrual cramps.

  • Prevents tooth decay.

Good calcium sources include cheese and yogurt, sardines (with bones), broccoli, peas, leafy greens (such as kale), almonds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, tofu, soymilk, blackstrap molasses, dried figs and apricots, and corn tortillas (with added lime).

Calcium is absorbed and utilized better when taken with vitamin D and magnesium, when your stomach has an adequate acidity level, when accompanied by regular exercise, and after protein intake, as well as when taken at bedtime along with some ascorbic acid, such as vitamin C.

Calcium supplements are available in many forms — tablets, capsules, chewables, powders, and liquids — many in the form of mineral salts, such as calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate, and calcium citrate. Some, such as calcium citrate, are absorbed better than others, so check the label or ask an employee if the product you’re buying contains calcium citrate.

Toxicity is most likely to occur when you have magnesium and/or phosphorus deficiency. Calcium toxicity can lead to increased calcification, which is a factor in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries and the cause of most cardiovascular disease), kidney stones, and other stone formations.

Calcium deficiency is more common than an overdose of calcium, and a deficiency can cause weak and porous bones, decay and loss of teeth, abnormal heartbeats, and rickets (a disease affecting children, in which a calcium deficiency results in soft, porous, and deformed bones).