Exercise and fitness is an important part of life. It has many immediate and long-term health benefits both physically and mentally.
But did you know that research has linked excessive exercise with increased tooth decay and erosion?
And the more hours an athlete spends exercising and training, the more likely they are to develop a cavity!
We are not saying don’t exercise. In fact, quite the opposite, as exercise does have a positive impact on your oral health and we are all about a holistic approach to keeping your entire body and mind healthy.
As long as you are aware of how exercise impacts your dental health, you can avoid or minimise risk factors and stay focused on achieving your fitness goals and keeping your whole body healthy and happy.
Main causes of dental issues among athletes
It is important to rehydrate and refuel. Many athletes prefer to do this by drinking sports or energy drinks. Although the electrolytes found in these beverages do help the body replenish lost liquids and energy, many people don’t realise they are also bathing their teeth in acid when their saliva is reduced.
We don’t deny that sports drinks are an important source of fuel, but you can limit the damage they cause by how you consume them.
Taking frequent sips of your intra-workout supplement gives teeth constant exposure to damaging sugars and acids, making them more susceptible to decay. So, when you drink them, drink them entirely and rinse with water after.
Natural coconut water with no additives is an excellent substitute for sports beverages. It is extremely hydrating, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties and helps balance glucose and insulin levels.
Open Mouth Breathing
People tend to breathe heavily through their mouth when exercising intensely. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, reduces saliva flow and makes the mouth a nice habitable space for bacteria to thrive.
Combining this with acidic/corrosive drinks only makes things worse, significantly increasing your risk of dental decay.
On the contrary, nasal breathing can protect your teeth and have many physiological advantages. For example, when you breathe through your nose, your nose and sinus membranes produce nitric oxide which increases your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and helps lower blood pressure.
Positive impacts of exercise on dental health
Regular Exercise Prevents Gum Disease
Studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between gum disease and physical activity. People who exercise regularly and who have never smoked had a significantly lower risk of developing periodontitis than those who did not undertake regular physical activity.
Correlation between BMI and Oral Health.
Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) is beneficial for your oral health. Health issues associated with obesity such as hypertension and diabetes are well known for contributing to poor oral health. Likewise, poor oral health has a negative impact on the ability to control these diseases. Individuals who maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular exercise and have a good diet are less likely to have periodontitis.
When diet turns to disaster
In a world of increasing obesity, weight loss is important to maintain health. Fad diets are a tempting way to lose weight with the promise of quick and easy weight loss, but they can take a serious toll on your teeth and gums.
Poor Nutrient Quality
Fad diets are restrictive on calories as well as much needed nutrients. Cutting out entire food groups can have devastating effects on your dental health. It is important to find other sources or supplement these much needed nutrients. For example, restricting meat and dairy will deprive your body of vitamin B12, calcium, iron and other vital nutrients. Without these in your diet, the health of your teeth, gums and bones will decline.
Too Many Acids
If you are considering a juice based diet or detox, be aware that these diets lead to a very high amount of acid consumption. These acids cause erosion of the outer layer of your teeth (enamel) and if severe can lead to exposed inner layers of teeth and root surfaces. Not only does this make them more susceptible to decay but can cause sensitivity to cold and sweet foods/drinks.
Headlines have linked drinking lemon water to many health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, ‘alkalising’ effects on the body, improved skin and detoxification. The research, especially human studies, to back up many of these health claims is minimal. On the contrary, the constant consumption of acidic water can have devastating effects on your teeth due to erosion.
Apple cider vinegar is another popular one. Apple cider does have many health benefits, but beware consuming this regularly will cause irreparable damage due to erosion!
Too Much of a Good Thing
Who doesn’t love a carbohydrate feast? A diet rich in simple carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay. Low carb diets have come in and out of vogue and are popular for weight loss. But low carb diets can lead to dry mouth, bad breath and bleeding gums.
Tips to protect your pearly whites
- Avoid consuming excessive acidic foods and drinks. If necessary to have, limit these to meal times and rinse with water afterwards to neutralise the acid in your saliva.
- Do not brush immediately after consuming acidic drinks/foods. The acid softens the tooth structure and brushing straight away can cause further wear.
- Stay hydrated! This is not only important for your overall health, but your saliva production will reduce if you are dehydrated. Saliva is the buffer that helps fight decay and keeps your gums healthy.
- Limit the snacking. Your saliva needs a break between eating to return to a neutral pH. Quench your thirst between meals with water.
- Breathe through your nose. Whilst mouth breathing can dry your mouth and increase risks for dental decay, nasal breathing can protect your teeth and also have many physiological advantages. For example, when you breathe through your nose, your nose and sinus membranes produce nitric oxide which increases your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and helps lower blood pressure.
- Always brush twice a day, floss daily and rinse with water between meals to ensure your teeth don’t suffer for the diet you choose.
- Keep up with regular check up and cleans to maintain that healthy grin 😊