Athletes are some of the healthiest people on the planet. They train hard, exercise vigorously, and eat well to keep their bodies fueled and strong. But even though their physiques are impressive and they are toned and fit, the oral health of some athletes – runners in particular – could be at risk.
Runners undergoing endurance training and athletes who train for long periods of time are more likely to develop cavities and tooth erosion, according to a recent study by the Scandinavian Journal for Medicine & Science in Sports. It would seem that just because someone eats well and is good to their body, that doesn’t mean their teeth are also in tip-top shape.
What’s Causing So Many Cavities in Athletes?
Saliva flow is incredibly important to counteract acid-producing bacteria and it’s present to wash away food and plaque from your teeth. Athletes regularly develop dry mouth as they train, and many opt to rehydrate as often as possible with sports drinks. And therein lies the problem. Popular sports beverages are heavy on sweeteners and carbs so that they can do their job – delay fatigue and refresh the electrolytes and minerals that are lost through sweating. But the sugar that these drinks contain are potent and feed decay-causing bacteria. If athletes already have a dry mouth, introducing sweeteners creates a strong breeding ground for cavities.
And the situation isn’t improved for athletes who turn to protein or energy bars to refuel. The ingredients in foods like these can easily stick to teeth when your mouth is producing enough saliva, let alone when saliva is at a deficit.
How Athletes Can Prevent Cavities
Fighting the negative side effects of endurance training (who knew there could be any besides shin splints and fatigue?) so that your oral health isn’t compromised isn’t difficult:
- Rely on water as your method of rehydration and drink plenty of it while working out, and before and after training.
- Chew sugarless gum with xylitol, a natural sweetener that will help maintain a neutral pH level in your mouth and promote the production of saliva.
- Brush and floss regularly and don’t miss your bi-annual visits to your dentist for preventive care and exams.
If you’re focused on having a healthy body, and training hard is part of that equation for you, be smart about taking care of your teeth too and preventing oral health problems from developing. Schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Yolanda Cintron at Fort Lauderdale’s International Center for Dental Excellence to learn more about maintaining good holistic oral health so your overall well-being can thrive.