Scientists in the US have found strong evidence linking a lack of vitamin D and calcium with tooth loss in the elderly. They say that those who do not get the recommended daily amount of the nutrients are almost 20 per cent more likely to lose teeth than those who consume sufficient amounts.
The scientists from the Calcium and Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tufts University in Boston, Massachussetts studied elderly patients over a three-year period.
Around 145 healthy volunteers, all aged 65 or more, completed a three-year, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, as well as a two-year follow-up after stopping the supplements used in the study. Teeth were counted twice: after 18 months, and again after five years.
During the course of the randomised study, 13 per cent of those who took the supplements lost one or more teeth, but more than twice that number (27 per cent) in the placebo group lost teeth in the same time period. Further, during the two-year follow-up, those who consumed more than 1,000mg of calcium daily had half the risk of tooth loss as those who consumed less than 1,000 mg.
The researchers note that tooth loss can cause psychological, social and physical damage. While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, the researchers suggest that the study may lead to a greater range of treatments and emphasis on nutrition education.
The study was funded by the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Lead researcher Elizabeth A. Krall worked with scientists at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and Boston University.