Exercise: Good for Your Body, Bad for Your Teeth

While you’re working on those chiseled legs and six-pack abs, are you considering what you might be doing to your teeth?

Perhaps you should, because researchers have found a link between exercise and an increase in
tooth decay.

Athletes have been known for poor dental hygiene, according to researchers with the dental school at University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany . The school studied 35 triathletes as well as 35 nonathletes to compare oral hygiene routines and exercise habits, according to the American Dental Association. Dentists found the athletes to have a reduced amount of saliva, as well as a higher pH level in the saliva they do have, compared to the nonathletes. The lack of saliva creates a dry mouth, which won’t allow for food to be properly cleaned from your teeth. It also increases bacteria, which causes decay.

 In addition to the dry mouth and higher acidity level in saliva, sugary sports drinks don’t do athletes any favors either. While most athletes reach for a drink of Gatorade or a bite of a protein bar to help them delay fatigue, the sugar and carbohydrates in these drinks and snacks provide food for bacteria, which leads to tooth decay. This causes the most damage to your oral health, according to a recent article published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

 To protect your teeth while exercising, try the following tips:

• Breathe through your nose to help keep saliva levels up and prevent dry mouth

• Keep yourself hydrated with plain water rather than sugary sports drinks

• Limit snacks during workouts – your limited supply of saliva won’t be able to properly clean your teeth when eating during a workout

• Try chewing sugar-free gum while working out to increase saliva

• Your teeth will be soft after working out, so rinse with water immediately and wait half an hour before brushing teeth

• Consider using a saliva substitute with a high pH level after long workouts to balance your naturally acidic saliva

For more information on how to protect your teeth while exercising, please call the office of Dr. Robert Walley, a dentist in San Francisco, to set up an appointment today.