When you think of dental health, the nutrient that probably comes to mind first is calcium. While calcium certainly is essential for healthy teeth, it won't keep cavities and decay away on its own. You also need another mineral, magnesium, to maintain healthy tooth enamel. Many people in the U.S. don't get enough magnesium in their diet, and their dental health tends to suffer as a result. Read on to learn more about the role of magnesium in dental health and how you can ensure you're getting enough of this nutrient.
What role does magnesium play in dental health?
The harder your tooth enamel, the better it is at resisting decay. Tooth enamel is made from calcium hydroxyapatite, and the more calcium hydroxyapatite it contains, the harder it becomes. Magnesium plays a role in regulating how much calcium hydroxyapatite is laid down in the teeth. If a person is deficient in magnesium, their body will lay down less calcium hydroxyapatite in the tooth enamel, leading to softer enamel. If they're getting enough magnesium, more calcium hydroxyapatite will be put into the enamel, causing it to harden and better resist decay.
Put simply, if you're deficient in magnesium, your tooth enamel is going to soften, and you'll probably develop more cavities.
How much magnesium do you need to consume?
The RDA for magnesium is as follows:
- Males ages 14 - 18: 410 mg
- Females ages 14 - 18: 360 mg
- Males ages 19 - 30: 400 mg
- Females ages 19 - 30: 310 mg
- Males ages 31 and older: 420 mg
- Females ages 31 and older: 320 mg
Why are people deficient in magnesium?
Many people in the United States are deficient in magnesium not only because they don't get enough of it in their diets, but also because they engage in behaviors or have conditions that lower their magnesium levels. Drinking too much coffee, soda, and alcohol can reduce magnesium levels. So can eating too much sodium or undergoing long periods of stress. So, by reducing your intake of these beverages, watching your salt intake, and reducing your stress levels, you're doing your teeth a favor.
How can you include more magnesium in your diet?
Most people can meet the RDA for magnesium if they focus on including more magnesium-rich foods in their diets. Plant foods tend to be the best sources of magnesium. Some particularly good sources include:
- Almonds (80 mg magnesium per ounce)
- Cashews (74 mg magnesium per ounce)
- Peanuts (63 mg magnesium per ounce)
- Black beans (60 mg magnesium per 1/2 cup)
- Avocado (44 mg magnesium per cup)
- Baked potato (43 mg magnesium each)
- Oatmeal (36 mg magnesium per instant packet)
There are also several animal products that are decent sources of magnesium:
- Yogurt (42 mg magnesium per 8 ounces)
- Milk (24-27 mg magnesium per cup)
- Chicken breast (22 mg magnesium per 3 ounces)
- Ground beef (20 mg magnesium per 3 ounces)
Enjoy yogurt and oatmeal at breakfast, 2 ounces of almonds for a snack, a serving of black beans at lunchtime, and a 6-ounce chicken breast and baked potato at dinner, and you've had 385 mg of magnesium -- which will satisfy your RDA if you're a female. Add a glass of milk and a second packet of oatmeal to that list, and you've met the male RDA of 420 mg.
Should you take magnesium supplements?
If you don't enjoy a lot of foods that are high in magnesium -- or if you are showing overt signs of magnesium deficiency, which include muscle cramps and weakness, tooth cavities, impotence, and trouble sleeping -- you may want to take a magnesium supplement to ensure you're meeting your requirements. There's a very low risk of side effects and toxicity with magnesium supplements, so as long as you take the product as recommended on the label, you should be safe. Talk to your physician if you have any concerns.
You are what you eat. In the case of your teeth, their resistance to cavities is highly dependent on how much magnesium you consume. Pay attention to the foods you're eating, or take a supplement to ensure you meet the RDA for magnesium. Your teeth will be all the better for it.
For more information on how to better care for your teeth, talk to a dentist at a dental office like Image Dentistry.