A glass of milk contains plenty of calcium, a nutrient not only important for strong bones, but also for healthy teeth. Regularly drinking milk can help the growth, strength and health of your teeth. If you drink milk that's fortified with other vitamins, such as vitamin A and D, you can help strengthen teeth even more.
Dental Health and Nutrition
Teeth begin forming even before the first tooth erupts from the gums in infancy. In fact, a fetus starts developing teeth at two months of gestation. The American Dental Hygienists' Association notes that nutrition and tooth health are clearly linked. This is especially clear in undeveloped countries where malnourished pregnant women are more likely to have babies with tooth malformations. Malnourished children in underdeveloped countries also show delayed tooth growth and more cavities. While this malnourishment isn't common in the United States, there is a definite link between nutrition and tooth growth, development and health.
Milk and Calcium
Milk contains a healthy dose of calcium -- 1 cup of 1 percent milk contains 290 mg of calcium. Most of the calcium in your body is found in the bones and teeth. Strong and well-developed teeth rely on adequate calcium intake. Calcium intake also reduces the risk for tooth decay and helps improve gum health, too. The recommended dietary allowances for calcium are highest in childhood -- 1,300 mg for children 9 to 18 years. Into adulthood, 1,000 mg of daily calcium is recommended, increasing to 1,200 mg when women hit age 51 and for men after age 70.
Milk and Other Nutrients
In addition to calcium, vitamins A, D and C, phosphorous and fluoride are also important for tooth development and maintenance. You'll often find fortified milk with additional vitamins -- most commonly vitamins A and D -- at the grocery store. Vitamin D helps bones and teeth better absorb calcium. Vitamin A helps form the protein keratin, a necessary component in tooth enamel.
If milk is the primary source of calcium, it's best to drink low-fat or fat-free milk. Three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk provide children 9 to 18 years with enough daily calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include spinach, bok choy, broccoli, calcium-fortified juices and cereals. For other nutrients important in dental health, you can consume more vitamin A and vitamin C. Many foods contain vitamin A, including liver, carrots, sweet potato and kale. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit.