The athletic feats during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo inspired viewers around the world. Smiles from participants were on full display, but did you know the health of your teeth can have an impact on athletic performance? Athletes are exposed to certain factors that make them susceptible to dental issues along the road to success.
What Can Happen?
Striving for peak performance comes with potentially negative effects on dental health. It’s a common issue. Tooth decay and gum disease have a respective prevalence of up to 55% and 76% in athletes.
The inflammation that characterizes gum disease is connected to conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, but there is also evidence it can have bearing on VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake during exercise), which relates to cardiorespiratory fitness. Any systemic health problem can negatively impact athletic performance and wellbeing. Tooth decay and gum disease in athletes can be caused by the following:
- Dry mouth. Xerostomia (also known as dry mouth) can develop due to increased levels of mouth breathing, stress, and dehydration due to sweating.
- Dental erosion. Diets that include sugary sports drinks or energy bars increase the risk of cavities, gum disease, and erosion of tooth enamel. Swimmers, for example, are at greater risk for dental erosion because of the acidity present in chlorinated pools.
- Trauma. Contact sports such as football, martial arts, and boxing carry the risk of dental injuries from high impact to the face without adequate oral protection.
Although athletes are exposed to conditions that leave them vulnerable to dental issues, there are ways to mitigate risk. Here are a few tips that can help athletes protect their teeth and achieve maximum performance.
- Standard rules apply. A study published in the June 2020 issue of BMJ Open Sports & Exercise Medicine found elite athletes who improved their oral health habits showed improvement in their sports performance. Professional and amateur athletes who brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush can head off cavities, gum disease, and enamel wear before they begin. Daily flossing to effectively clean between teeth is also recommended.
- Fuel like a champion. Maintaining a balanced diet during intense training is critical. Staying hydrated also keeps salivary flow going—this helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can contribute to tooth decay. Your dentist will be able to provide suggestions to make sure your training diet comes with lower risks to your dental health.
- Prevent injury. Think of a mouthguard as a shock absorber. It cushions impacts to the face and helps protect the teeth, jaw, tongue, lips, and cheeks. Mouthguards are available as an over-the-counter solution, but a custom-fit guard designed specifically for the anatomy of your mouth offers the best protection for your teeth while participating in all sports. Make an appointment with Lewis Estates Dental Centre to determine your best fit.
- Build a winning combination. Your dentist is part of your training team and regular visits are important to prevent issues. Being proactive and scheduling routine checkups and cleanings are part of a good self-care regimen and support your overall wellness.
A healthy mouth promotes a healthy body and the team at Lewis Estates Dental Centre is ready to help. Taking care of your oral health helps keep you in top form, so you can achieve a podium finish.