NICE, FRANCE -- Milk drinkers and orange-juice lovers may be doing their gums a favor.
Two studies by researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine show that people with low levels of Vitamin C in their diets, and those who had too little calcium as young adults, appear to have nearly twice the risk of developing periodontal disease later in life than people with higher dietary levels of either nutrient.
The two studies add a new element to public-health efforts to promote dental health, said Sara Grossi, D.D.S., senior research scientist and director of the UB Periodontal Research Center, where the study was conducted.
"It is no longer enough to tell children and adults to brush their teeth, floss and see their dentist," Grossi noted. " Diet plays a larger role than we anticipated."
Results of the studies were presented here today (June 26, 1998) at the annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research.
Both studies used data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) I and III, carried out in 1971-75 and 1988-94 respectively. NHANES I involved 2,392 persons; 12,412 people were surveyed for NHANES III.
Analysis of dietary calcium for both survey periods showed that women consumed less than the minimum recommended daily intake of 800 milligrams, the amount in four glasses of milk, while the average for men was slightly more than 800 mg.
Comparison of calcium intake with periodontal disease, defined by the amount of gum detachment from underlying bone, showed that in the total study population, men and women who had low levels of the mineral in their diets were half again as likely to develop periodontal disease as those who met or exceeded the recommended dietary allowance for calcium.
When only participants between the ages of 20-39 years were analyzed, low calcium intake doubled the risk of periodontal disease.