Gentle and caring teeth & gum health maintenance.

Exercise & Your Teeth

Several recent studies of athletes have found that intense athletic training may contribute to dental problems and tooth decay. A 2012 study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that of 278 athletes examined at the London Olympics, a majority had “poor oral health,” with high rates of decay and gum disease. The athletes were from all over the world, but most had access to quality dental care, despite infrequent dental visits in the year prior to the Olympics. A more recent study by the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science looked at 35 competitive triathletes to better understand what might be causing the high rate of dental disease.

One of the initial theories about the cause of dental problems is sugar from increased consumption of sports drinks. However, previous studies ruled out a link between sports drinks, diet and the oral health of athletes.

In the Scandinavian study, 35 athletes and 35 non-athletes participated in full dental exams and saliva collection, along with home care, diet, and exercise questionnaires. Fifteen of the athletes also completed vigorous running workouts and had their saliva tested at several points during the run. At rest, there was no difference in the saliva of the athletes and non-athletes. However, during workouts, the amount of saliva produced by the athletes decreased and the chemical composition of the saliva shifted. Their saliva increased in alkalinity, which is thought to contribute to dental plaque and tartar buildup. The athletes’ mouths became drier as the workouts progressed, regardless of any water or beverages consumed.

The athletes tended to have more cavities and more enamel erosion, with risk increasing as training time increased. The participants in the study had an average weekly training time of nine hours and their risk may not be representative of what the average person will experience. However, saliva has a protective role in our mouths, and changes in amount and composition can play a large role in our overall dental health. If you have questions or concerns about saliva and your oral health, please contact our office to schedule an exam.

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The New York Times

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