The Scandinavian Journal for Medicine & Science in Sports has discovered that runners and athletes who train for long periods of time and multiple days a week are more likely to have cavities and tooth erosion, mostly due to reduced saliva flow, but also because of what they’re ingesting to refuel during or after a workout.
Why Athletes Are Developing So Many Cavities
Saliva is important because it washes away food and plaque from your teeth and can also help counteract acid-producing bacteria. This is one of the reasons dentists recommend chewing gum with xylitol: It’s a natural sweetener that keeps a neutral pH level in the mouth, helps prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth, and – the biggest perk – chewing gum in general helps produce saliva.
Athletes, of course, know that their mouth can get dry as they exercise – so they combat a dry mouth and the need for hydration with sports drinks. These popular beverages are packed full of the carbs and sweeteners necessary to delay fatigue, as well as the electrolytes and minerals (sodium, potassium, chloride) that are lost through sweat and need to be replaced. Protein bars fall into the same category – they’re a must-have for serious athletes who need to replenish, but they’re also the reason athletes are suffering with more cavities.
Sugar feeds decay-causing bacteria and the defenses against this bacteria live in saliva. Athletes who are taking in sugars when their mouth is short on saliva are creating the perfect breeding ground for cavities.
Cavity Prevention for Athletes
There are simple solutions to combating the negative side effects of endurance training:
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after workouts.
- Pack sugar free gum in your arsenal of workout gear and chew it right after you finish running to help get rid of dry mouth and get those salivary glands working properly again.
- Maintain a regular brushing and flossing routine, and keep up with preventative care.
If your body is feeling good but your teeth are not, or if you’re ready to start a serious training program, make an appointment with Red Bank Dentistry to get a cleaning and check-up. Taking good care of yourself should include oral health care as well as a smart exercise regimen.