Many folks make a New Year’s resolution to get more exercise. If you’re one of them, you might want to know about the connection between exercise and dental health. It might surprise you!
Somewhat surprisingly, a study of triathletes showed that they were more likely to suffer from dental problems. In particular, the study found that as the number of hours they trained increased, so did the incidence of cavities.
So what does that mean for you and your plan to work out more? Read our blog for more insight from Dr. Barfield on exercise and dental health. If you have any questions or need to make an appointment in the Plano, TX area, call us at 972-380-8105.
First, we’ll look at why these athletes may have gotten more cavities than their non-exercising counterparts. Then we’ll make some recommendations.
Watch Out for Dry Mouth
It doesn’t matter whether you’re working out at the gym, running in the park, or involved in a team sport. During these activities, most of us breathe with our mouths open. That can be a problem if it happens often enough to contribute to dry mouth. Your saliva helps wash away food debris and bacteria that causes cavities. Since it contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus, it also strengthens your tooth enamel.
Dry mouth is an even bigger issue if you are also taking medications that reduce the amount of moisture in your body. This includes common medications like antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and even antihistamines.
Sports Drinks May Be a Problem
If you’re concerned about exercise and dental health, you also need to exercise caution with sports drinks. Many of us quench our thirst during workouts with sports drinks. Unfortunately, that may not be the best idea. Many researchers suspect a link between dental decay and consumption of sports drinks. These beverages are even more damaging to teeth than soda because:
- They are often more difficult to brush away than soda
- Some of then are highly acidic, which damages your tooth enamel
Our Recommendations for Exercise and Dental Health
So should you stop exercising? We certainly don’t recommend that! But we suggest making a few beneficial changes with your exercise and dental health:
- Drink plenty of water. It’s the best choice for hydration.
- Cut down on your consumption of sports drinks or other highly acidic drinks like juice.
- To help counteract the acidity in sports drinks or juices, dilute them with water and use a straw for drinking.
- Wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after consuming a sports drink or other acidic beverage. You risk damaging tooth enamel if you brush any sooner than that.
- To stimulate saliva flow, chew sugar-free gum.
Eat Foods That Are Good for Your Body & Your Teeth
In addition to drinking lots of water during workouts and at other times, you should consume more foods that are good for your body and your teeth too. They include:
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – While you may want to be careful with acidic fruit like oranges, the fiber in fruits and veggies works almost like a natural toothbrush to clean your teeth. In addition, some fruit actually helps inhibit bacteria growth.
- Yogurt and Other Dairy – Dairy products contain a lot of calcium and phosphate, which both help strengthen tooth enamel. In addition, probiotic cultures in yogurt can help fight bacteria.
- Whole Grains – Many athletes like to load up on carbohydrates. Unfortunately, starches in bread turn quickly to sugars in your mouth. Because of this, it’s best to eat whole grains when you can since they contain less starch.