Health Watch: Endurance Athletes and Cavities

Health Watch: Endurance Athletes and Cavities

We all know that certain habits are likely to lead to tooth decay, such as including too much sugar or acid in your diet. Folks who suffer from dry mouth are also prone to cavities. Surprisingly, a new study entitled “Effect of Endurance Training on Dental Erosion, Caries, and Saliva,” published by the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports , adds another group to the list. The study has found that endurance athletes may be at an increased risk of tooth decay.

The study examined the regular habits of 35 triathletes as well as 35 people who do not include fitness in their regular routine. All the participants provided essential information regarding their oral hygiene, as well as gender, age, height, weight, and weekly training regimens. They were all subject to an oral exam that analyzed their saliva output and pH levels at rest and 15 of the athletes were also analyzed during activity. For those who engaged in swimming, the pH level of the pool water was also taken into consideration.

While at rest, all 70 participants showed a similar pH level and saliva output. However, the triathletes showed decreased salivary flow and a higher risk of dental erosion while they were engaging in physical activity. Furthermore, the study showed that with increased training time, the triathletes were at an increased risk of dental erosion.

The explanation for these results, according to Dr. Cornelia Frese, lead author of the study, is that nutrition products for athletes as well as sports drinks can lower the pH levels of the athletes’ saliva so significantly that dental erosion occurs. To quote Dr. Frese, “With a lowered intra-oral pH, dental erosion and caries can occur. We saw that the weekly training time correlates with caries prevalence. We assume that longer training time is consistent with a higher intake of carbohydrate sports bars, gels, and drinks, and this might cause a higher risk for caries.”

Frese has also found that the physiological changes that occur during exercise contribute to the dental issues experienced by athletes. She explains, “Exercise activates the sympathetic drive and suppresses the parasympathetic innervation of salivary glands. Additionally, athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise, and the mouth gets dry. If they consume sports nutrition/drinks at this moment, saliva protection might be diminished.” According to Dr. Frese, athletes need to develop specific dental hygiene practices to protect their teeth, including toothpaste with fluoride. Frese explains, “The fluoride in the toothpaste increases the resistance of tooth hard tissue against caries and erosive challenges.”

If you are an endurance athlete and concerned about the health of your teeth and gums, it may be time to make an appointment with a Columbus, OH dentist. Sampson Dental Group is currently accepting new patients. For more information about our services, please contact us today!

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top