It's no secret that running can be great for the mind, body and soul, but what it's doing to peoples’ teeth may be surprising. According to the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, a new study is linking an increase in cavities and tooth erosion among runners and athletes who train for long periods of time, multiple days a week.
The aim of this investigation was to give insights into the impact of endurance training on oral health, with regard to tooth erosion, caries, and salivary parameters. The study included 35 triathletes and 35 non-exercising controls. The clinical investigation comprised oral examination, assessment of oral status with special regard to caries and erosion, saliva testing during inactivity, and a self-administered questionnaire about eating, drinking, and oral hygiene behavior. In addition, athletes were asked about their training habits and intake of beverages and sports nutrition.
"Expending that much energy requires an increase in carb and sugary food intake like sports drinks and protein bars," explains Dr. Jessica Emery, cosmetic dentist and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft Chicago. "Sugar feeds the decay causing bacteria. Our defenses against this bad bacteria live in our saliva. Because of this sugary food, the dry mouth that comes with the way we breath during our exercise and the dehydration that comes with sweating for long periods of time, these make a perfect trifecta for cavities."
There are a few things people can do to combat this:
- Always drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts. If you are a distance runner, consider increasing your salt intake, which allows your body to retain water.
- Carry some sugar-free gum to pop in right after you finish your run. This will get rid of the dry mouth and allow your saliva glands to start working again.
- Continue to brush and floss regularly and if you are experiencing increased sensitivity or pain, see your dentist immediately.