Vigorous exercise amounts to a well-conditioned and finely tuned body. The benefits to your heart, lungs, and muscular structure, outweigh any negative repercussions that might ensue. Or does it? There have been hints in the past that athletes could have a heightened risk for cavities and other oral issues. This could be attributed to sugar-laden sports drinks and energy bars, yet there’s more to the correlation between exercise and your oral health.
The Potential Causes
Since most athletes and hardcore exercise enthusiasts tend to consume more sugary carbohydrates, it stands to reason that this habit could cause cavities and tooth decay. However, an athlete’s diet is primarily made up of nutrients designed for them to excel in their sport. Besides the prevalence of ample amounts of sugar and dense proteins, a person who works out regularly produces sweat and blood flow, yet saliva production is missing. The amount of saliva when exercising becomes progressively less, meaning their mouths get drier, regardless of whether they drank water or an energy beverage before and during the session. The saliva’s chemical composition also shifts, increasing in alkalinity the more a person exercises. In fact, an excess of alkalinity in saliva may contribute to the development of tartar on teeth and lead to decay.
The Role Saliva Plays
Changes in saliva during exercise is problematic for the athlete and their oral health, due to the fact that saliva has a very protective function for teeth. Prolonged workouts or the intensity of the exercise contribute more to the saliva decrease, and ultimate problems for oral health. Because of these factors, there are precautions that anyone who exercises might want to take:
-Drinking water during workouts
-Maintain a brushing and flossing regimen
-Regular visits to your dentist
The Flip Side of the Coin
Regular exercise is related to our cardiovascular system, our emotions, our skin, bones, and brains. Everything improves with a solid daily workout regimen, including your oral health. There are health-enhancing behaviors that include maintaining a normal weight, eating a high-quality diet, and exercising regularly. These three positive behaviors not only help with mood and body, but it’s been shown that those who engage in at least two of them were 40 percent less likely to have serious gum disease.
Periodontitis (gum disease) develops when the gums become inflamed, resulting in bleeding, and severe tooth decay. Oral health is closely integrated with other aspects of our overall health, as gum disease becomes a mounting problem that can further other illnesses. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, fertility and pregnancy problems, are all tied to periodontitis.
Exercise helps to balance the pH and antioxidants in the mouth. These work directly on gum tissues to combat free radicals and their damaging effects. The link between oral disease and systemic disease (overall health) is the inflammation associated with free radicals.
Positive Steps To Take
While there are always two sides to the same coin, it’s been proven time and again how exercise works with and against your oral health. Depending on the intensity and frequency, saliva production is key, as are the free radicals that exercise can produce. There are several ways to still engage in a quality and healthy workout program while encouraging the positive impact exercise has on your dental health.
-Eat a high-quality diet
-Exercise within the limits of what your body can get accustomed to over time.
-Your smile depends on brushing and flossing regularly.
-Professional dental exam and teeth cleaning twice annually.
-Drink plenty of water throughout your workout, even in cool temperatures.
At Larson Dental, we are committed to your smile success and overall health. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about your current and future workouts and how they can impact your teeth. For your oral health to be at its best, maintaining a smooth running engine in your body is of vital importance. We’re here to support and help all your dental health needs and concerns. Give us a call today to speak with one of our highly trained professionals. Together, let’s get your dental journey back on track.