Today, we know that our oral health doesn’t work in isolation and can greatly affect–and be affected–by other bodily systems. So naturally, exercising and improving overall health surly has some benefits for improving oral health. For instance, those who are overweight or diabetic tend to have inflammation and gum issues, but those who exercise and have a lower BMI tend to have healthier oral tissues.
But despite the benefits, there are exercise-related habits that active people should be aware of that can actually harm your oral health. According to Carefree Dental, two issues are sports drinks and mouth breathing:
Do You Know How Exercise Impacts your Dental Health?
Many athletes prefer to rehydrate by drinking sports drinks or energy drinks. Although the electrolytes found in these beverages can in fact help your body refuel and stay hydrated during a workout, they can take a major toll on your teeth. In fact, a study published in the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry found that there is so much acid in sports drinks, that damage occurs after only 5 days of consistent consumption.
“Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are ‘better’ for them than soda,” says Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, lead author of the study. “Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.”
Another contributing factor to athlete’s dental problems is how they drink these beverages. Taking sips throughout a workout gives teeth frequent exposure to the damaging sugars and acids in these sports drinks, making them vulnerable to tooth decay.
Open Mouth Breathing
During intense exercise, people tend to breath heavily with an open mouth. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, reduces saliva flow, and creates an environment for bacteria to thrive. Adding corrosive sports drinks to the mix only makes things worse for an athlete’s teeth. Rapid, heavy breathing.
The same study mentioned above also felt that open mouth breathing played a role in tooth decay. Researcher Cornelia Frese that it can lead to dental erosion and cavities. “The athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise,” she mentioned. “The mouth gets dry, and produces less saliva, which normally protects teeth.” Thus, teeth are at an even higher risk for dental issue among athletes.
Thankfully, these habits can be remedied pretty easily by drinking water instead of acidic drinks and by focusing on both nose and mouth breathing. And surely the benefits of exercise outweigh the downsides of these small habits. After all, there have been numerous studies linking heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, some autoimmune diseases, etc. to poor gum health. So if you diet and exercise, you may not only improve your overall health but your risk of diseases like periodontitis.
Along with the previously mentioned habits, athletes should be more aware of which activities can increase their risk of tooth trauma. Obvious culprits like football and hockey necessitate mouthguard usage, but even sports like soccer, track-and-field, gymnastics, etc.should be done with mouthguards.
Lastly, besides reducing certain habits and wearing a mouthguard, you may also want to visit your dentist before participating in certain recreational activities. For example, the Dental Tribune had a surprising article about how SCUBA diving could be bad for your teeth and any restorations:
Training to become a scuba diver? Start at the dentist
Recreational divers should consider consulting with their dentist before diving if they recently received dental care, says Vinisha Ranna, BDS, lead author and a student in the UB School of Dental Medicine.
“Divers are required to meet a standard of medical fitness before certification, but there are no dental health prerequisites,” says Ranna, who is also a certified stress and rescue scuba diver.
“Considering the air supply regulator is held in the mouth, any disorder in the oral cavity can potentially increase the diver’s risk of injury. A dentist can look and see if diving is affecting a patient’s oral health.”
The study, “Prevalence of dental problems in recreational SCUBA divers,” was published in the British Dental Journal.
The research was inspired by Ranna’s first experience with scuba diving in 2013. Although she enjoyed being in the water, she couldn’t help but notice a squeezing sensation in her teeth, a condition known as barodontalgia.
Published research on dental symptoms experienced while scuba diving is scarce or focuses largely on military divers, says Ranna, so she crafted her own study. She created an online survey that was distributed to 100 certified recreational divers. Those who were under 18-years-old, ill or taking decongestant medication were excluded.
Her goal was to identify the dental symptoms that divers experience and detect trends in how or when they occur.
Of the 41 participants who reported dental symptoms, 42 percent experienced barodontalgia, 24 percent described pain from holding the air regulator in their mouths too tightly and 22 percent reported jaw pain.
Another five percent noted that their crowns were loosened during their dive, and one person reported a broken dental filling.
“The potential for damage is high during scuba diving,” says Ranna, who has completed 60 dives. “The dry air and awkward position of the jaw while clenching down on the regulator is an interesting mix. An unhealthy tooth underwater would be much more obvious than on the surface. One hundred feet underwater is the last place you want to be with a fractured tooth.”
Ultimately exercise is great for oral and overall health, athletes just need to step up their preventive dentistry game if they want to avoid any pitfalls. You can learn more about preventive dentistry services at dentaloasisofoc.com/preventive-dentistry/