We came across a great article1 in The New York Times that brings attention to an evocative recent study2 published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. The study suggests that athletes who engage in heavy training may be more likely to develop dental problems. We know that exercise is good for us, so how could it possibly lead to oral decay? One could guess that the sugar in sports drinks and protein bars is to blame, but the study suggests otherwise.
Researchers collaborated with the University Hospital Heidelberg dental school in Germany and recruited 35 experienced triathletes and 35 age/gender-matched overall healthy adults who were non-athletes. The non-athlete group served as a control. The recruited volunteers all visited the hospital's dental lab for oral examinations and collection of their saliva. They also filled out surveys about their diets and exercise habits. Fifteen of the athletes also conducted a strenuous test run during which additional samples of their saliva was collected.
When the research team compared the groups' oral condition and saliva samples, they saw unexpected results. Compared to the non-athletes, the athletes showed a higher level of erosion of their enamel as well as a higher number of cavities. When the team compared the control group's diet and habits to those of the athletes, there was no significant correlation between the consumption of sports drinks and bars to the condition of their oral health.
One possibility is that, when athletes worked out, the amount of saliva they produced dropped significantly. Also, the alkalinity of their saliva increased, which is thought to foster the development of plaque and tartar. Saliva is a natural protectant of our teeth, so the fact that it progressively decreases during exercise is a potential problem for athletes' oral health. Athletes should be mindful of staying hydrated during exercise and should make seeing your Lewiston / Auburn dentist regularly a priority. You need exercise to stay in shape; you need to remember to keep your teeth in shape, too!
1 Reynolds, Gretchen. “Is Exercise Bad for Your Teeth?” The New York Times. 24 September 2014. Web.
2 C. Frese, F. Frese, Kuhlmann, Saure, Reljiic, Staehle, and Wolff. “Effect of endurance training on dental erosion, caries, and saliva.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2014 June 11. Web.