Body Beautiful and Rotten Teeth

Article by Dr Raha Sepehrara

You may have seen an article in the news this week stating that athletes have more dental decay. As well as this, other articles have suggested that poor oral health can have an effect on their overall performance.

Here’s the score:

Athletes and sports professionals are at more risk of decay for 2 reasons:

  1. They consume more sports supplements, including energy drinks, carbohydrate gels and intra-workout supplements. These are often high in sugar and also acidic. Some can be quite sticky and sit on teeth for a long time and are therefore more likely to cause dental problems.
  2. During training there can be changes in saliva. These happen for a couple of reasons:
    1. pH is a measure of how acidic/alkaline something is. Our saliva is usually neutral so this helps keeps our teeth protected. However, during training, the pH of your saliva can become lower and therefore more acidic. This makes the oral environment more favourable for decay and erosion.
    2. Also as a result of exercise, especially long endurance training, the amount of saliva produced is reduced so the natural washing action of the mouth isn’t as efficient. As a result, this makes plaque more likely to accumulate. Plaque is a layer of bacteria and debris. This can contribute to decay and gum disease.

Let’s face it – exercise is tiring for anyone and really can drain the energy out of us so we all need a little boost to get us through a workout. But this doesn’t mean we have to consume so much sugar!

Tips on how to boost energy:

  • Try to keep rehydrated with water.
  • Use bananas as a source of energy.
  • Try using low sugar supplements. For example, SiS GO energy gels only have 0.8 g sugar per serving compared to Lucozade which has 62.5 g in a 500ml bottle! Both do the same thing! I know which I would go for.
  • If sports supplements are required try to use sugar-free chewing gum after to neutralise the acid and sugar.
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash or rinse with water to try and neutralise the acid/sugar.
  • Try to use a straw.
  • Try not to rinse the drinks around the mouth or sip on them frequently this exposes the teeth to acid attack for longer.
  • Do not brush for at least 60 mins after consuming any sports supplements/ energy drinks.
  • Trying to breathing nasally rather than through the mouth – mouth breathing dries the Saliva up much more quickly leading to higher chance of decay and sore gums.

As dentists, we see young athletes and established ones with large cavities due to the issues I’ve discussed. As a result of this, they can suffer from pain and require more dental treatment including root canal treatment and even extractions. We want you to always perform to your full potential and not let poor dental health hold you back.

The good news is this advice can really help prevent dental problems and the sooner you start, the better oral health you will have for years to come.



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