Regular exercise is important in keeping our bodies healthy and strong. People who find time getting fit with sports, workouts or even just running around town do a better job controlling their weight and improving their mood, sleep and energy.
For those who eat and breathe sports for a living there could be a downside.
A study made by a team of German dental researchers links an increase in cavities and tooth erosion among athletes who trained for long periods of time, multiple days a week.
The aim of the research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports is to give light to the impact of endurance training on oral health, with regard to tooth erosion, caries, and salivary parameters.
The study of 35 triathletes and 35 non-exercisers included oral exams and assessments, saliva testing, a questionnaire about eating, drinking and oral hygiene habits, plus training habits, beverage consumption and sports nutrition.
Researchers discovered two important things: As the participants’ total weekly training time increased, so did the prevalence of dental erosions; and, according to a subsample of athletes participating in an incremental running field test, saliva flow rates decreased when intensity increased and saliva pH slightly increased.
Cornelia Frese, a marathoner and researcher in the Department of Conservative Dentistry at the University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, tells the Runner’s World Newswire, “The triathletes’ high carbohydrate consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, can lower the mouth’s pH below the critical mark of 5.5. That can lead to dental erosion and caries. Also, the athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise. The mouth gets dry, and produces less saliva, which normally protects the teeth.”
This doesn’t mean you should stop training and engaging in sports to keep your chompers healthy. Here are a few practical things to eliminate a workout’s effect on your teeth.
- Drink plenty of water. Not only is it important to stay hydrated especially when training; your body also needs water to produce saliva which in turn fight germs in your mouth and prevent bad breath. Drink lots of water before, during and after workouts.
- Rinse your mouth as often as you can. Sports drinks, gels and bars are a common part of training and exercise. Remember to rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water afterwards to reduce the amount of acid or sugar lingering in your mouth.
- Chew sugar-free gum. This helps increase salivary output and prevent dry mouth.
- Mind your diet. When not in training, stay away from sugary foods and drinks. Experts say that maintaining a limit of around five teaspoons of sugar a day – less than 5% of the daily total calorie intake – will allow you to keep your teeth for life.
- Brush and floss regularly. Keep your oral hygiene in check. No matter how exhausted you are, never let a day go by without cleaning your teeth. Using an alcohol-free mouthwash can also help prevent tooth decay and bad breath.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Let your dentist examine your teeth and gums regularly and have him or her address any form of dental problem that may arise right away.