We all know that exercise is generally good for your health. Exercise keeps your heart functioning properly, can help lower your BMI and reduce your risk for many chronic diseases. But, how does exercise affect your teeth. The answer may surprise you.
Believe it or not, exercise has been shown to adversely affect enamel which is the hard outer layer of tooth structure that is more dense than bone. Losing enamel increases one’s cavity risk therefore it is imperative that you are seeing your dentist for biannual cleanings and exams. Eating habits play a large part in the demineralization of enamel which leads to cavities. Many athletes eat lots of carbs, drink sugary sports drinks and protein bars, and energy gels and goos with added sugar. Dehydration is also a risk factor. As saliva rates decrease based on dehydration and how you breathe, ph and alkalinity are increased, which lead to demineralization and erosion. Add to this open-mouth breathing, and you could be spending time at the dentist not just for a cleaning but for dental work. And don’t forget physical trauma. Getting hit in the mouth during games can cause serious damage to your mouth and jaw which can be prevented if one wears a custom fit sports guard fabricated by a dental laboratory.
But, there is definitely some good news for your smile. Regular exercise may help avoid gum disease. Also, people with healthy BMIs are less likely to have diabetes, which can affect oral health.
Dr. Rebecca Perschon of Smile Exchange of Malvern, the recent female winner of the Newtown Library Company’s 5K Race, offers these tips:
“There are several things to help you prevent damage to your teeth during exercise,” advises Dr. Perschon. “The first is to always wear a mouth guard to avoid losing teeth if something hits you in the mouth. Always stay hydrated and practice good breathing techniques. You can also use a sugar-free mint or gum to help increase saliva production. But do remember to not chew for longer than a minute or so as it could lead to jaw pain and tooth loss as well. And, of course, continue good dental hygiene to keep your smile healthy and bright.”
So, while exercise does increase some risk of hurting your teeth, the benefits outweigh those risks. Just keep those tips in mind and enjoy your activities!