Dentist (Pediatric) Questions Lactose Intolerance

Do kids with lactose intolerance have weak teeth?

My son is 7 years old and is lactose intolerant. Will the calcium deficiency impact his teeth in the long run? Is there anything we can do?

9 Answers

Hi,

I don't believe lactose intolerance can cause weak teeth unless the kid is not taking any other sources of calcium. You may want to test for calcium deficiency. There are plenty of ways to add calcium to diets. Please check with a pediatrician in that regard.

Thank you,

Fariborz Rodef, DDS
It surely can. I would make sure he get's enough calcium in his diet through other means such as soy milk or almond milk with added calcium. Fluoride use through his toothpaste and water source are also equally important!
Yes, there are plenty of things to do! It also depends on if your son actually is calcium deficient or not. Just the act of not drinking cow's milk doesn't guarantee he is deficient in calcium. It's possible, theoretically, that a real calcium deficiency could have an impact on the strength of the developing enamel (outer layer of the teeth), but the good news is it probably wouldn't be severe unless the calcium deficiency were very severe. At 7 years old, many of your son's permanent teeth are still growing in his jaws, so maintaining good calcium can be beneficial to the teeth's development. WHAT TO DO: There are lots of other foods that you can incorporate into your son's diet (and/or providing him children's vitamins containing calcium) that would supplement his calcium intake to replace what's missing without drinking milk. Foods such as beans, almonds, collard greens, spinach, kale, and edamame (young soybeans like Japanese restaurants serve and can be found at Costco) all have a good amount of calcium in them. According to their nutritional facts, 1 cup of Silk almond milk has 45% Daily Value of calcium. Be aware, however, that Silk (and other non-dairy milks) often have a higher amount of sugar in them, so he should drink it with meals and not in between meals - in between meals we all should drink water only. Otherwise, a diet with more frequent exposure to sugars can increase the risk of cavities.
Unless your child has a specific syndrome there is no relation between lactose intolerance and weak teeth. You can get calcium from other non-lactose sources.
Calcium deficiency can impact the development of your child's adult teeth yes however it can also have an impact on your child's overall health. It is important to check with your child's pediatrician or health care provider and discuss further if infact your child has a calcium deficiency and how to properly address it
If your child has no calcium in his diet, the teeth can be affected as calcium is one of the minerals that make up teeth. You can give him non-dairy foods and beverages that have calcium:

Calcium-fortified soy, almond and rice beverages
Calcium-fortified orange juice
Vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, rapini and kale
Canned fish with bones such as salmon, sardines and anchovies
Soybean-based foods such as edamame, soy nuts and tofu
Beans like chickpeas, kidney beans, white, navy and pinto beans
Nuts and seeds like almonds and sesame seed
This is always a concern for tooth and bone development. Some children do outgrow their intolerance as they hit puberty. There are other foods that are calcium-rich. The key to unlocking their availablity and absorbtion is the concept of food pairing. For example, certain cheeses taste better with a tomato or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar; but more importantly, the acidity from the tomato helps unlock the calcium in the cheese for the body to process and utilize.
The short answer is no.
Permanent teeth start to develop slightly before birth and afterwards, so a lot is dependent on prenatal and early feeding habits. The strength of the teeth is more genetic in nature, but prevention will help protect the teeth. The importance of calcium in good bone development (including the jaw bones) is very important, but remember, cows milk is not the only (or best source) for calcium, after all, your son is not a calf, but a human (I am not a big fan of cow's milk). Great sources of calcium include broccoli, kale (and other dark green veggies), beans, and fish. Also, some OJ and non-dairy milks are calcium fortified!
Eat healthy, brush after meals, and smile, smile, smile!!
There is no published data to answer your question so this is my personal opinion and draws from my patients that are lactose intolerant. There are many common non-dairy sources of calcium such as orange juice, soy milk and enriched flour. I would look at the dietary information on the breads and cereals that are being eaten and it is probably a sufficient amount of calcium. You also want to check to make sure that Vitamin D is optimal. From a dental standpoint, the lactose intolerance should not affect his long-term dental health as long as his calcium and fluoride are optimal, he avoids sweets and brushes and flosses well. There are common cavity preventive strategies that your dentist can share such as sealants, fluoride varnish and regular check-ups.