Every adult remembers the thrill and excitement of wiggling a loose tooth with your tongue or finger as a small child. However, excitement is the last thing you will feel...
Getting adequate exercise each day is good for you – there’s no refuting that, and remaining active on a regular basis has countless lifelong benefits. But overdoing training can end up causing problems for your pearly whites. Multiple studies of athletes’ teeth have shown that heavy physical activity contributes to several different dental problems, for a surprising variety of reasons.
Last year’s study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine took a look at teeth belonging to athletes who participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics. These are the most qualified, toned and trained athletes in the world – so it was a shock to learn that their teeth were a disaster. With high levels of decay, gum disease, and enamel erosion, they were in sad shape even though they had access to quality dental care (also, many hadn’t scheduled an exam in some time).
The hypothesis at the time was that sugary, acidic energy drinks and performance-enhancing gels were the culprit. But a new study is showing entirely different causes.
Taking a Closer Look at Athletes’ Oral Health
The dental school at Germany’s University Hospital Heidelberg investigated the teeth of 35 competitive triathletes alongside 35 age- and gender-matched non-athletes. They received full examinations, completed questionnaires about their diets, documented their typical oral hygiene regimens, and detailed their exercise habits. Some of the athletes also completed a strenuous run and gave saliva samples throughout.
The findings were as followed:
- Athletes had significantly greater erosion of their enamel
- Athletes had more cavities, with a higher risk level correlating to their time spent training
- There were no correlations between the consumption of sports drinks and poor oral health
- There were no difference between saliva samples from athletes and non-athletes at rest
- There were differences between resting saliva and saliva sampled during a workout. Amount of saliva produced lessened more and more as the exercise continued, meaning dry mouth intensified with more intense activity. Saliva also grew more alkaline, which can contribute to plaque buildup.
What can we take away from this, as non-Olympic athletes or triathletes? That saliva is even more important than we might realize, and dry mouth pops up in the most unexpected ways. Saliva is a crucial protective agent for your enamel, and if you’re not producing enough, your teeth and gums are at risk. If you think you might be experiencing dry mouth, let us know and we’ll help you find treatment.
Toned bodies don’t need to mean rotting teeth. Take clues from athletes’ oral health difficulties to better shape your own home habits.