With the 2014 Olympics currently in full swing, it seems an appropriate time to talk about oral health and the implications for your well-being – including athletic performance. If you’re a serious athlete, or if you have children who participate in athletics, you might focus on nutrition, strength training, and endurance in order to get healthy and increase athletic performance. Unfortunately, when it comes to health concerns related to athleticism, dental health is not among many athletes’ top priorities.
The University College London Eastman Dental Institute conducted a study of 302 athletes at the 2012 Olympic Games. The researchers gave the athletes each a check-up and interviewed them about the effects of oral health on their athletic performance. The study found that 75% of the athletes had some degree of gingivitis. 55% of participants had cavities, and 18% said that poor oral health probably had a negative effect on their athletic performance. The results showed a surprising lack of attention to oral health among some of the most disciplined and health-minded athletes in the world.
It may be erroneous; however, to assume that poor oral hygiene in athletes is a result of dental health falling by the wayside in comparison to other health concerns like fitness or flexibility. The health organization Sports Dietitians Australia published a fact sheet suggesting that some factors related to athletics may make sports enthusiasts more likely to develop oral health problems.
One risk factor is consumption of large amounts of sugary sports drinks. Many such drinks are designed to replenish an active body with carbohydrates; however, carbohydrates are delivered in the form of sugar, and over-exposure to sugar can eventually lead to tooth decay. You can reduce the potentially harmful effects of sugary sports drinks by:
- Diluting the sports drink liquid with water
- Refraining from rinsing your mouth with a sports drink and then immediately using a mouthguard
- Waiting longer than 30 minutes to brush your teeth after consuming sports drinks
Dehydration is another important concern related to sports and dental health. Saliva serves the important purpose of coating and protecting the surface of teeth, and neutralizing the acidity that can cause tooth decay. When you become dehydrated – for instance, due to exercising or playing a sport vigorously and not properly hydrating your body – your mouth and teeth may become dry, which increases your risk of tooth decay.
Another dental health risk associated with playing sports is the risk of injury. An elbow to the mouth in a wrestling match or a run-in with the catcher at home plate could result in a broken or injured tooth. Prevent injuries by wearing a protective mouth guard while playing contact sports.
It’s important to keep your mouth healthy to prevent future problems from slowing you down. At Dr. Kaplansky’s Office, we love to see our patients and their families participating in sports, getting outdoors, and having a blast, so play safe and stay healthy!
If you suspect you may have injured a tooth, or that you are experiencing tooth decay, call us at (716) 772-7500 to schedule a consultation today.