I recently read an article presented by the American Dental Association that showed that there may be a correlation between training for edurance sports and an increased risk of tooth erosion and decay.
As an avid runner, occasional triathlete, and full-time dentist I found the article to be very interesting. Tooth erosion and cavities are generally caused by a decrease in the pH of our saliva. As the environment in our mouth becomes more acidic our teeth begin to erode and deteriorate.
In the study, it was shown that a group of 35 people who exercised over 5 hours per week in training for triathlon had a lower saliva pH during training than a group of people who were inactive. The study also showed a correlation between training time and rate of developing cavities.
The article stated possible reasons as decrease in salivation during excercise, additional drying of the mouth from open-mouthed breathing during hard efforts, use of sugary and carbohydrate-rich sports bars, gels, and drinks, and possibly even lower pH in swimming pool water.
So if you are a runner, swimmer, biker, or triathlete, what should you make of this study? My thoughts… Plenty of water (over sugary sports drinks) for good hydration. Don’t overuse energy gels/blocks/bars. Perhaps a really good swish and rinse with water immediately after consuming them. And of course good old-fashioned dental hygiene. This should including a healthy nutritious diet, brushing 3 times daily, daily floss, daily fluoride rinse, and regular checkups and cleanings.
Dr. Yoon is a dentist in North Andover, MA who enjoys running, biking, and very occasionally going for a swim. Look for Dr. Yoon and his girlfriend Stacey at this year’s Feaster Five Road Race on Thanksgiving day in Andover!