Dental Study: Do Athletes Get More Cavities? Recent Research Says Yes

February 13, 2015

78459279Athletes work daily to keep their bodies in peak physical condition, training for tireless hours at the gym and fueling their workouts with sports drinks that promise to enhance their performance. While an active lifestyle will certainly help keep your body in shape, research shows that a strenuous exercise regimen can actually negatively affect oral health in a variety of ways. At the Rocky River, OH dental office of Dr. William Eick, we strive every day to teach our patients how to best preserve the health of their teeth and gums, and today we’d like to offer some helpful advice to athletes, particularly frequent runners.

Running & Oral Health: What’s the Connection?

In a 2014 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, a team of German researchers sought to identify the link between a demanding exercise routine and dental caries, or cavities. It was discovered that athletes, especially those that regularly ran or rode a bike during training, were at an increased risk for tooth erosion. The cause for this is twofold, and it involves both diet and behavior.

First, athletes often consume sports drinks, nutrition bars, gels, and high-carb foods to propel them across the finish line before the competition. Unfortunately, the sugars and carbohydrates our muscles use for energy are exactly what oral bacteria use to thrive in our mouths. In addition, a carb-heavy diet can actively reduce pH levels in the mouth, a problem that had previously been correlated with a higher incidence of cavities.

Secondly, anyone who has ever run for any considerable distance knows that breathing rapidly leads to a dry mouth. When we run or bike, we tend to breathe through our mouths, and saliva production decreases. Without adequate saliva to protect teeth, enamel becomes far more susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria.

How Do Athletes Keep a Healthy Smile?

Next time you’re at the gym, remember to grab a bottle of water before you hit the treadmill or bikes. Drinking water frequently during your workout will not only keep you hydrated, but it can also help keep sugars, starches, and bacteria from taking up residence between the teeth and along the gum line. Observe a stringent home hygiene routine, and don’t forget to visit Dr. Eick at least twice per year for a full checkup and professional cleaning. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment at our Rocky River, OH dental practice, and learn more about preventing cavities and gum disease. We are also happy to serve families from throughout Cleveland, Fairview Park, Lakewood, Westlake, and beyond.

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