Last week, I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment and listening to the news on the radio. I overheard a report about exercise and your teeth. One of my friends heard something about it too, but only part of the report. We work out together every weekday. Has there been some big news on exercising damaging your teeth? – Thanks, Cesar from Miami
Thank you for your question. You may be referring to a study similar to the one published by The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. The findings are for heavy, continuous, strenuous exercise.
Are Athletes at Risk for Poor Oral Health?
Not all athletes have poor oral health or rotten teeth, but those who regularly engage in strenuous exercise risk tooth decay. Athletes who participated in the study had a higher incidence of tooth decay and other oral health issues for these reasons:
- When compared with other participants, the athletes had a reduction in saliva production during workouts.
- Decreased saliva production means the mouth is drier and more easily breeds bacteria.
- Saliva helps wash away bacteria that cause tooth decay and other oral health issues.
- The saliva remaining in the athlete’s mouth had a higher acidity level than other participants. Acid promotes decay and gum disease.
When you exercise, drink plenty of water. Also, drink plenty of water after exercising. Unless you are an athlete who regularly engages in strenuous workouts, you probably are not at risk for increased tooth decay while you work out.
Another study published by the British Dental Journal found that many athletes have a higher risk of tooth decay from drinking sports drinks with high sugar content. Sugary drinks promote an acidic environment in your mouth and tooth decay.
If you have concerns about how your workouts affect your teeth, let your dentist know. Although dental implants are the most effective way to replace missing teeth, preserving your natural teeth is best. Also, impact sports can make it challenging to maintain healthy dental implants.
If you are a vigorous athlete, your oral health risks make it vital to schedule dental exams and cleanings twice a year and annual periodontal screenings to ensure your gums and jawbone are healthy.
Dr. David Pumphrey, an Atlanta periodontist, sponsors this post. A periodontist is a specialist with two years of post-graduate training in gum and jawbone health.