Dental News

Calcium, vitamin D supplements linked to prevention of tooth loss in the Elderly

10/2/2000  TORONTO — Calcium and vitamin D supplements, often recommended to help prevent osteoporosis, are significantly related to a decrease in tooth loss risk in the elderly.

Elizabeth Krall, PhD, of Boston University, reported these findings at last week’s annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) in Toronto.

Until now, it was not known if calcium and vitamin D supplements had any effect on tooth loss in older adults. Previous studies suggested that tooth loss and the loss of bone that supports the teeth may be linked to the development of osteoporosis.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements have been shown to slow the rate of bone loss at different parts of the body, such as the hip and forearm. These new findings suggest that nutritional interventions aimed at preventing osteoporosis also may have a beneficial impact on tooth retention.

In this study, Dr. Krall and colleagues measured tooth loss in 145 healthy men and women aged 65 years and older who were participating in a randomized trial of the effect of calcium and vitamin D supplements on bone loss from the hip. Individuals received either a placebo or 500mg of calcium and 700 units of vitamin D daily.

The number of teeth present (excluding dentures and bridges) was counted at six months and again after three years. At five years after the beginning of the study — two years after the individuals discontinued the supplements — researchers conducted an additional oral examination to estimate long-standing oral health, such as the amount of teeth with decay, periodontal disease status and information on brushing and flossing habits.

The average age of the participants was 71 and the average number of teeth present at the beginning of the study was 21. Fewer of the participants in the supplements group lost teeth than did participants in the placebo group. During the 2.5-year interval, 13% of the subjects in the supplements group lost one or more teeth, while 24% of subjects in the placebo group lost teeth.

For subjects taking supplements, the chance of losing teeth was only about 40% as great as that for subjects taking placebos. The results were adjusted for other characteristics that also may affect tooth loss, including the number of teeth needing treatment for decay, periodontal disease, frequency of flossing, and smoking status.

Steven Goldring, MD, chief of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and secretary-treasurer of ASBMR, commented that since bone loss is the hallmark of osteoporosis, bone loss in the oral cavity leads to an increased risk for tooth loss.

The findings of this study have “major public health implications since they provide good evidence that nutritional supplements aimed at prevention of systemic skeletal effects of osteoporosis may also reduce the incidence of tooth loss,” he says.

Edited by Chris Smith
Managing Editor,