Optimizing oral health

Healthy Aging – Part 4 – Optimizing Oral Health with Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium

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Healthy Aging – Part 4

Welcome Back. As we come to the end of our 4-part series on healthy aging, we will look at the importance of good dental (oral) hygiene and how optimizing oral health with 4 key minerals is not too complicated after all. 

The health of your mouth might be much more important than you realize when it comes to overall health. This is especially true in the senior population.

As you can imagine, it’s the senior population that has a higher chance of having missing teeth or dentures. When this is the case, it’s more difficult to eat a wide variety of nourishing foods… especially when those foods are crunchy or chewy.

It is very common to see protein deficiencies in the elderly. Additionally, you will find significant vitamin and mineral deficiencies, too.

If it’s painful to chew food, it will often be replaced with foods that are easy to chew, or don’t require chewing at all… like pudding, Jell-O, etc. These are the types of food commonly served at nursing homes and senior residences.

Since it is better to be ‘proactive’ instead of ‘reactive’, we will start by giving strategies to keep your teeth healthy while you’re young. This will ensure that you have strong teeth in your senior years. However, if you’ve already lost teeth, or are in ill-fitting dentures, we’ll give strategies to improve your nutrition, too.

4 Key Minerals for Optimal Tooth and Jaw Health

Understanding how certain minerals work in keeping your teeth and jaw strong and healthy can help guide you in getting sufficient amounts of these minerals in your daily diet. Though many minerals are important, my favorite include:

1) Calcium

  • No surprise here, right? We’ve all heard that calcium is important for healthy teeth and bones.  Without sufficient calcium in your diet, your tooth enamel may break down faster than it can rebuild itself, making your teeth prone to cavities and other damage.
  • Calcium-rich foods include:
    1. yogurt
    2. cheese
    3. green leafy veggies, like kale and chard
    4. canned salmon, with bones
  • But, calcium can’t do the work, alone. She needs help from her three best friends.

2) Magnesium

  •   Magnesium and calcium work together synergistically in their efforts to build strong tooth enamel as well as maintain bone density. Ideally, you should receive a two-to-one ratio of calcium to magnesium every day.
  •   Magnesium-rich foods include:
    1. green leafy veggies (you get a 2-for-1 here, since it has calcium, too)
    2. pumpkin seeds
    3. beans

3) Phosphorus

  • Phosphorus combines with calcium in forming crystalline calcium phosphate.
  • It supports calcium’s role in bone production.
  • Without phosphorus, your body can’t use calcium effectively. This could result in bone brittleness and teeth that chip easily.
  • Phosphorus rich foods include:
    1. pumpkin seeds (another 2-for-1, since it has magnesium, too)
    2. lentils
    3. beef/pork

4) Potassium

  • Potassium serves as a companion to magnesium in your body’s efforts to regulate its blood acid levels. When your blood becomes too acidic, the acids can remove calcium from your teeth and jawbone, making them weak. A diet rich in potassium can, therefore, help your teeth and bones use calcium more efficiently.
  • Potassium can also help your teeth in other ways. When potassium nitrate, a compound found in some toothpastes, enters your tooth enamel, it can reduce pain signals if you are a person who suffers from tooth sensitivity.
  • Potassium-rich foods include:
    1. potatoes/sweet potatoes
    2. avocados
    3. chard (this is a 3-for 1, since it’s a green leafy veggie with calcium and magnesium, too.)

If you didn’t know, the health of your teeth also plays a direct role in the health of your heart. Yes, that’s right. Poor dental health can lead to heart disease and heart attacks. So, now you can see that you have more than one good reason to keep your teeth healthy and strong.

Dental Challenges

But, what can we do to help those who have already suffered from dental loss?

This is very important because if our seniors can’t retain their health through proper nutrition, it puts them at great risk of losing their independence, their home, and being sent to a nursing home.

Ask any senior, and I’m sure you’ll find that they would much rather follow a nutrition therapy guideline and stay in their home instead of being moved to a nursing home, where their ability to come and go becomes restrictive.

Since this blog can’t tell you how to grow new teeth, once they’ve been removed, we can talk about how someone can make sure to get the proper nutrition to retain their health, which, in turn, allows them to retain their independence.

As we’ve mentioned in other blogs in this series, one of the main reasons seniors lose their independence is due to falls in their homes. Falling oftentimes happens because of muscle weakness, ie loss of muscle tone.

One way to improve the health of muscles is to eat adequate protein daily….and the senior population needs more protein per day than their younger counterparts. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 100-150 grams of protein per day, depending on your gender. (Men need more)

If eating steak, chicken breast or pork chop is difficult due to dental challenges, there are other ways to get protein in your diet.

Simple solutions include:

  • scrambled eggs
    • 14 grams – 2 egg
  • canned tuna or salmon
    • 28 grams – ½ can tuna
  • ground beef or pork, in soups, stews, and chili
    • 28-30 grams – 4 ounces
  • Greek yogurt – low-fat (it has more protein than 2% or full-fat)
    • 25 grams – 1 cup

Other important nutrients that seniors need in order to improve their health and vitality include:

Vitamin B12

  • This vitamin is crucial for brain and nerve health.
  • Deficiencies in this vitamin are very common in the senior population and can be a reason for cognitive decline and falls
    • Great sources of this vitamin can be found in:
      • Tuna – over 100% RDA
      • Low-fat milk (has more B12 than 2% or whole milk) – over 100% RDA
      • Ground beef – over 100% RDA

Vitamin D

  • This vitamin plays many roles in optimal health.
  • Depletion of this vitamin in the senior population leads to
    • low impact fractures
      • leading to hospitalizations/nursing home placement
    • sepsis (systemic blood infections)
      • leading to hospitalization and death
    • increased risk of cancer
      • leading to hospitalization and death
    • poor immune function
      • leading to hospitalization and death
    • The best way to achieve optimal Vitamin D levels is through wise sun exposure. However, if you are experiencing winter where you are, it’s difficult to get enough sun exposure to make natural Vitamin D. If that’s the case, supplementing with D3 is a healthy choice. Getting a blood test will tell you what your actual level is. In the winter months, especially, a good rule of thumb is to have a blood level between 45-60. If your levels are lower than that, supplementing is likely going to be important for you. Working with a nutrition therapist master or certified holistic nutrition professional will ensure that you are taking the optimal dose for your needs.


  • Fiber plays a major role in digestive health. It does this by regulating blood sugar and bowel motility. (Motility is important in removing built up toxins.)
  • Fiber deficiency is very common in the United States. Per WebMD, most Americans only get about half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
  • Low-fiber diets often lead to constipation or irregularity in bowel movements and reduced energy. When fiber is not sufficient it also leads to an imbalance in blood sugar levels. (This is one of the key risks in falls.)
  • When poor dental health makes it difficult to eat high fiber foods, a blender or food processor can become your best friend. I will share an easy-to-make recipe to help create a protein-rich, nutrient-dense meal that can support optimal health, even if dental health is impaired.

Optimizing Wellness While Aging

To recap, there are many, many things you can do to optimize your wellness as you age.  In part 1 we covered how to support brain health; in part 2 I gave actionable steps to improve balance and core strength; in part 3 I explained the importance of maintaining healthy vision and hearing as you age.

I started on this 4-part series on Healthy Aging because I recently read a book called The Blue Zones. This book highlighted several areas in the world where people were living into their 90-100’s in good health. These people were active. They lived in their own homes. They had a vibrant social circle. Something that’s lacking in most parts of the US. As a matter of fact, many in the US think that by the time someone reaches their 70’s they should be ready for the retirement home. As someone who will be in their 70’s sooner than later, I wanted to know the most important things I could do, in the realm of holistic nutrition and health, to also live vibrantly into my 90-100’s.

There’s good news! You, and all of your family and friends, can make changes now to allow for vibrant health. And, you don’t need to make 100’s of changes. As you can see by the steps outlined in this 4-part series, it’s only a few steps that you need to take, starting today, to improve your health and vitality. And, you can even be in your 60’s and 70’s and start making these changes.

If these changes seem daunting, please seek out the help of a nutrition therapist master or natural food chef. Both of these professionals can set you on the right path for success.

As promised, a recipe for vibrant health.

I call this my ‘Fountain of Youth’ Smoothie

Mineral rich smoothie

You’ll need a blender or food processor (and about 60 seconds) to make this delicious treat


1 serving of unflavored whey protein (I buy Natural Grocers Whey protein. 1/3C is a serving)

2 tbs pumpkin seeds

1 tbs flaxseeds

1/4C frozen blueberries

1/4C frozen strawberries

½ peeled, frozen banana

1-2 tsp cacao powder (optional….but, it’s chocolate….so why would you make it optional?)

8-12 ounces milk of your choice (I go between raw milk, unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk, etc. It’s whatever I have in the fridge on any particular day)


Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Easy peasy

The whey protein offers 24 grams of protein. The pumpkin seeds offer magnesium. The flaxseeds offer fiber. The blueberries support optimal brain health. The frozen strawberries and banana make this drink very creamy with a milkshake texture. (I find that adding ice cubes waters down most smoothies, so I don’t use them. Instead, I freeze the produce to get a better effect.)

Here’s to your health.

Bon appetite

For the full holistic picture of nutrition for healthy aging read the rest of this series: Part 1 – Brain Health, Part 2 – Balance and Core Strength, and Part 3 – Vision and Hearing

Event! – For more strategies to age healthfully, be sure to check out the Vibrant Aging: Cognitive Health & Mobility Workshop hosted by the NTI Director.

About the author: Dr Becky Spacke, teaches holistic nutrition courses at Nutrition Therapy Institute. In addition, she has a private practice, working with people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

About Nutrition Therapy Institute’s Holistic Nutrition Certification

Nutrition Therapy Institute (NTI) is a leader in holistic nutrition education. Interested in starting our holistic nutrition courses and earning your holistic nutrition certification? Attend an informational webinar to learn more by signing up HERE.

Images: Image by jeltevanoostrum from Pixabay; Image by blandinejoannic from Pixabay

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