At Maylands Dental Centre we’ve been noticing an alarming rate of dental decay, teeth erosion and dry mouth among the fitness community of late. This can lead to pain, expense and compromised smile aesthetics.
We had a look at the scientific literature and found this is happening all over the world. Most recently, a study found that a whopping 43% of the Dutch athletes who went to the Rio Olympics in 2016 had dental disease requiring treatment by a dentist. This had self-reported impacts on appearance and performance.
Common causes for dental disease among athletes and fitness enthusiasts
Dietary and lifestyle habits common to exercise fans tend to fuel dental disease:
- The tendency to dry mouth from dehydration due to exercise
- Frequent consumption of shakes and smoothies commonly high in sugars as a post-workout energy boost or as a way of ingesting exercise supplements
- Frequent intake of acidic foods such as fruit and drinks such as sports drinks
How can sports players avoid dental problems by getting mouth FIT?
A mouth FIT person has good oral health while exercising at high intensity or frequency with plenty of watery saliva, free from dental decay and erosion and has good daily personal oral hygiene habits for healthy gums.
The key to getting mouth F.I.T. is mouth Fluids; mouth Intervals; and mouth Tastes.
- Drink enough fluids throughout the day to stay well hydrated during and after exercise.
- Tap water or teas free of additives like milk or sugar up to 2L per day is best
- Drink enough water or tea reduces the incidence of mouth dryness, dental decay and erosion
- Frequency of eating and drinking is critical to good oral health
- Intervals of 2-3 hours between meals and drinks is ideal. This allows saliva to neutralise acids in the mouth produced after eating that cause dental decay.
- Limiting meals to 5-6 times per day is helpful. This can be breakfast, lunch dinner and up to two snack times such as morning and afternoon tea. Again, this limits the impacts of dietary sugars on dental health
- Between meals drink plain tap water or additive-free teas
- Brush and clean between teeth twice daily
- Sweet and sour foods are the ones to watch out for!
- Dietary and mouth pH levels are the major determinants of dental decay and erosion. If the pH of the food or drink is acidic (low ph) chances of dental erosion are high. If mouth pH levels become very acidic thanks to mouth bacteria feeding on ingested foods and producing acids, the chances of dental decay become high.
- High sugar consumption – even if from natural sources such as fruits – is the number one food source for mouth bacteria to produce acid that causes holes in teeth.
- Sports drinks that promote electrolyte replacement have a notoriously low pH, (acidic), as have many fruit juices such as apple and citrus juices. It’s best to limit these drinks to mealtimes (see mouth intervals above), avoid grazing or sipping on these drinks over time, and rinse your mouth with tap water after consuming them to help neutralise mouth acids.
These simple diet and lifestyle tweaks to your training and exercise regime will bring huge positive impacts to your oral health and total body health. Get mouth FIT now!
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