Is exercise bad for teeth?

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY:  Get to the bottom of the exercise-oral health argument.

Posted: September 26, 2014

While hitting the gym is great for the body, there has been much debate lately over whether exercise is bad for teeth. 

According to a new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, a significant link was found between cavities and weekly training time. 

The research involved 35 triathletes and 35 non-exercising control patients who received an oral examination following intense exercise. Each of the participants filled out a questionnaire regarding their eating, drinking and oral hygiene habits. In athletes evaluated after an incremental running field test and at maximum workload, saliva flow rates decreased drastically while saliva pH (acidity in the mouth) jumped.

Compared with the control group, the athletes had much greater erosion of tooth enamel. They also faced a higher risk of cavities. The workout-oral health connection showed that the more hours an athlete spent exercising, the more likely he or she was to have cavities. 

This is not the first time we've seen data like this. In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, a majority of athletes from around the world displayed poor oral health, with high levels of tooth decay and even gum disease. Though most had access to quality dental care, many had not visited a dentist within the previous year. 

What about sports drinks?
In the past, trainers blamed sugary sports drinks for high levels of cavities in athletes. But research has shown little to no link between these two factors. Instead, the changes in saliva composition drew the line between a healthy mouth and an unhealthy one.

Sweating dries out your entire body, draining liquids from not only the skin but also the mouth. When saliva levels decrease, the oral cavity turns into fertile environment for harmful bacteria. This is exacerbated during intense activities such as running, playing soccer and other sports where athletes tend to breathe through their mouth to deliver more oxygen to their hearts. 

Many runners may experience dry mouth, or that parched feeling. Dehydration is a big factor here, as the mouth becomes more alkaline with the lower levels of normally protective saliva. On top of this, a desert-like mouth is known to lead to halitosis.

Ways to avoid dental harm during workouts
However, the news shouldn't serve as an excuse for not working out. There are ways to minimize your risk during a fitness session. Here are some of them:

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and more during exercise. Adjust water consumption levels when sweating it out in hot weather. 
  2. Brush and floss as you know you should. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day - once in the morning and once at night - and floss daily. 
  3. Visit the dentist. You should see the dentist at least once every six months. More serious endurance athletes should consider visiting a dentist with a specialty in sports dentistry to ensure that their teeth remain in as good shape as the rest of their body. 

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only.  Always consult your health care professional before beginning any new therapy.

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