A recent study published by the British Dental Journal indicates that although most athletes appear to be symbols of health and wellness on the surface, their oral hygiene is less than ideal compared to their peers. There are other factors that contribute to why elite athletes in particular tend to suffer from tooth-related ailments, leaving untreated tooth decay and gum inflammation more prevalent amongst them despite brushing and flossing regularly.
There is a simple and obvious reason for this. There is a tendency for athletes to refuel their active bodies with high-acid drinks, gels, and energy bars—all of which can weaken tooth enamel or damage teeth as a result of their high sugar content and added acidity.
According to the report, nearly half (49 percent) of the world’s top endurance athletes have untreated tooth decay, and most have early signs of gum inflammation. The scary part is… it has nothing to do with their oral hygiene. The same athletes who fell into this category demonstrated not only proper dental hygiene but also spent more time brushing and flossing than the general population. In addition to brushing their teeth at least twice a day, 94% of respondents floss daily.
Let’s break down the science and break the habits (not your teeth).
Sugar and acid, which are often added to sports drinks and gels, decalcify the surface of the tooth and dissolve the enamel. Cavities occur when the enamel on the tooth is impaired. Once enamel dissolves, it cannot be replenished or regenerated. As a result of this type of loss and decay, the tooth and overall oral health may be permanently damaged.
The risk of tarnishing the enamel doubles when athletes consume these types of drinks instead of H2O when hydrating and recharging. Sugar and starches are used as food by plaque, and acid is produced as a byproduct. Plaque buildup that is not removed regularly by brushing and flossing can cause additional decalcification, cavities, gum disease, and bone loss.
What have you learned so far? Avoid sports drinks and gels.
For hydration, choose water or other alternatives that are less acidic, such as natural juices without added preservatives. Alternatively, you may consider swishing water after each sip, drinking through a straw, and/or brushing and flossing after scheduled workouts when consumption of acidic drinks is frequent. You may also benefit from a fluoride rinse. Regularly visit the dentist for a professional cleaning and checkup every six months, or more often if recommended.
It should be noted that sodas, sweet teas, bubbly flavored water, and other carbonated beverages have a similar impact on your oral health.
In order for your child to grow up with a healthy and beautiful smile, our Washington DC pediatric dentist is here to help. Please contact Capitol Hill Pediatric Dentistry to schedule your child’s next appointment and help them maintain a healthy smile for life.
Capitol Hill Pediatric Dentistry
Phone: (202) 849-3292
650 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 220
Washington, DC 20003