Is Your Fitness Ruining Your Smile?

What is it an active person’s daily routine and lifestyle that leaves them at higher risk of erosion and decay? The following outlines the four common contributors to decay and erosion amongst athletes and how they can be prevented or reduced.

1 Sports and energy drinks

Many athletes prefer to rehydrate by drinking sports drinks or refuel with energy drinks. Although the electrolytes found in these beverages can help your body refuel and stay hydrated during a workout, they can take a major toll on your teeth. A study published in the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry found there is so much acid in sports drinks that damage occurs after only five days of consistent consumption.

The alternative: Although electrolyte replacement is necessary during and after a workout, most commercial sports drinks contain many additives that your body doesn’t need. The best alternative is drinking water for rehydration, and if you want to add some flavor or extra electrolyte benefit add a splash of citrus. Natural coconut water with no additives is another extremely healthy choice. Not only is it great for hydrating, it also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps balance glucose and insulin levels.

2 Protein drinks and snacks

The craze of consuming your body weight in protein for muscle growth and recovery has led to many athletes and gym goers to snacking on and drinking protein throughout the day. These are often consumed slowly throughout the day, which is effectively as bad as a sugary snack for your teeth. Consistent sugar consumption leads to dental decay and prevents our saliva from defending the teeth and gums as it normally would.

The alternative: Try to choose a protein shake or snack with no added sugar (less than 5g) and consume no more than one per day between meals.

3 Five or more meals per day

Many athletes consume smaller and more regular meals throughout the day, as opposed to the traditional three of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While there may be a health benefit, it does result in a more acidic environment for the mouth. Our saliva is the natural protective barrier against acids with a buffering effect against low PH foods and drinks. However, if the teeth are exposed to more than five acidic attacks per day, there is a high risk of both dental erosion and dental decay.

The alternative: If you have a routine involving small frequent meals and snacking, try to use something to help buffer the acidic environment in your mouth. Try to reduce the frequency of sweet or acidic food consumed (like fruit) and introduce savory options like rice cakes or neutralizing foods like dairy. Sugar free chewing gum is a great way to stimulate saliva flow and help protect your teeth between meals.

4 Mouth Breathing

During intense exercise, people tend to breathe heavily with an open mouth. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, reduces saliva flow, and creates an environment for bacteria to thrive. Adding corrosive sports drinks to the mix only makes things worse for an athlete’s teeth.

The alternative: As well as preventing the problems associated with mouth breathing, nose breathing has other physiological benefits. Your nasal and sinus membranes produce nitric oxide when you breathe through your nose, which significantly increases your lungs’ oxygen absorption capacity and helps lower blood pressure.

(Credit: Dr. Andrew Culbard, cosmetic dentist, Dr. Roze and Associates Dental Clinic)