We’ve been following the story about the discovery that Olympic athletes had bad teeth, along with attempts by trainers to implement better dental care. Now, though, it turns out that having bad teeth may be common for all athletes, with harder training correlated with worse teeth.
German researchers attempted to determine what caused athletes to have bad teeth and found that some factors were behavioral, but others were metabolic, putting athletes’ teeth at risk whenever they train.
They found that the athletes in their sample (35 triathletes who trained about 10 hours a week) suffered significant risk of both dental enamel erosion and cavities (if they practiced very hard).
Cavities of course are familiar, the attacks on your teeth by oral bacteria, which excrete acid as part of their digestion process. Athletes were at increased risk of cavities when they trained hard. In fact, the harder athletes trained, the greater their risk of cavities compared to the control group.
Tooth erosion was in general more extreme among the athletes. Erosion is when your dental enamel is worn away by exposure to acid on all sides, such as when you drink an acidic cola or sports drinks. This presents a problem because tooth erosion can be harder to treat than dental cavities. Cavities are localized and easily treated with a tooth-colored filling. On the other hand, a seriously eroded tooth can only be treated with a dental crown.
Athletes put themselves at risk because they subject their teeth to more acidic conditions more often. Researchers found that it was common for athletes to consume acidic sports drinks, sugary gels, bars, and other carbohydrates as part of training.
Breathing through their mouth could also cause problems for athletes. This can dry the mouth out, allowing bacteria, which are harmed by saliva, to grow in greater numbers. And when they do excrete acid, without the neutralizing power of saliva, the acid levels in the mouth increase rapidly.
And the researchers found that, when training, athletes produced less saliva and more acidic saliva, putting teeth further at risk.
Although workouts may put your teeth at some risk, you can minimize that risk if you follow a few tips.
Remember, try to breathe through your nose whenever possible. This will help you maintain saliva to protect your teeth.
It’s crucial to hydrate during a workout, but always choose water preferentially. If you are drinking sports drinks, have some water, too to make sure your teeth aren’t exposed to acid any longer than necessary.
We know you often need calories in the middle of a workout to keep going, but try not to have more than necessary. Snacks during workouts feed bacteria. If you do have a snack, make sure you rinse your teeth right away, and get off all those sticky energy bar bits. Don’t brush your teeth right away, which can damage enamel that’s been softened by acidity. Instead, wait half an hour before brushing your teeth.
And consider using a saliva substitute to supplement and neutralize the saliva you produce during a workout.
Follow these steps and you will find that you’re able to keep your teeth as healthy as the rest of your body. Want to learn more oral healthcare tips? Please call 209-532-1111 to talk to a dentist in Spokane or 509-228-3998 to talk to a dentist in Spokane Valley.
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788