Decalcification is the process whereby calcium is eroded or removed from teeth and bones. This process often occurs among the elderly, as a result of natural wear and tear, but can occur in any age group with a calcium-deficient diet. It is also used by medical experts as a means of softening bone tissue to make it easier to cut through.
In dentistry, preventing tooth decalcification is a key component to maintaining oral health. Decalcified teeth occur as a result of plaque build-up. As plaque eats away at the tooth enamel, calcium is stripped away, weakening the hard structure of the tooth and making it more susceptible to cavities. Ideally, the dentist and the patient work together to prevent this from happening — the dentist by supplying the teeth with enamel-strengthening products such as fluoride on routine visits, and the patient by practicing tried-and-true oral care, such as regular brushing and flossing.
In bones, decalcification poses different dangers. As calcium is depleted from the structure, bones become weaker and more flexible. As a natural side effect of the aging process, the elderly are particularly susceptible to this condition. This happens because calcium levels naturally fall as time wears on and physical activity decreases. This can lead to osteoporosis and other related ailments and is a usual suspect in broken-bone incidents among older populations.
This problem doesn't just afflict the elderly, however. Research has shown that women are far more susceptible to depleted calcium levels than men, even well before the onset of old age. Many dietitians and other medical professionals recommend that women take supplements to ensure they're getting the right amount of calcium.
Growing children can also have problems with bone decalcification, especially in impoverished regions. Developing bones need lots of calcium to remain healthy. While affluent children are less likely to face this issue, it's still important to remain vigilant about a diet healthy in calcium.
Although it's a common affliction, the erosion of calcium is fortunately easy to avoid. Getting enough calcium in the diet can often be as simple as remembering to brush the teeth regularly. It is common knowledge that dairy products, such as milk, are rich in calcium, but there are also a number of other foods abundant in this mineral. Many fruits, vegetables, and nuts contain plenty of calcium to sustain a healthy diet, for example.
Bone decalcification is sometimes done intentionally by scientists called histologists. Histologists microscopically study bone and other tissue matter to learn more about the human body. Often, researchers will decalcify bone by soaking it in acid. Over time, the acid strips away calcium, making it easier for scientists to cut through the bone.