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Dental tips for athletes

Silhouette of a man drinking water after exercising with blue sky in the background.

A die hard athlete? Want to swim, run or participate in other physical activities all the time? Well you stand apart from the crowd because of your trainers and physique. But you will be rather surprised to know that if you haven’t already told the dentist, they will also immediately know that you are an athlete, maybe not instantly, but the minute you open your mouth. Shocker? The reason why is pretty simple, running and all other hardcore physical activities or training sessions can take a toll on your oral health.

Not sure what all of this is referring to and how you can avoid your gums and teeth taking the heat of your athleticism? Here are some things that your dentist wishes you would become concerned about and take care of.

1.    The Sugar Fix

Sounds familiar? Well, all athletes have been there and done it. They overdose on sugary drinks and chewable in the name of gaining instant energy fixes. The chews, gels and sport drinks that are supposed to fuel you up also increase the amount of bacteria in your mouth. And what do these tiny microorganisms do? They eat away the enamel that keeps your teeth secure. This means that your oral health is more likely to suffer than any other average person.

The dentist is able to detect this in the form of white, chalky lines inside the mouth, at the base of the teeth as well as the gums. They are also visible on the front teeth where the liquid sloshes. In the long run, these things can lead to cavities and ultimately tooth decay.

Solution?

Yes as an athlete you do need your sugar fix, so how can you protect your oral health? By immediately rinsing your mouth with water once the physical activity is done. It is also important that you pay attention to what you put in your mouth the rest of the day and eat and drink nutritious meals only.

Not using gels that are citric or tartaric flavored, as well as of thinner consistency will also help in keeping teeth safe from cavities.

2.    Mouth Breathing Causes Dryness

Most athletes, especially runners become mouth-breathers. This is because it allows them to take in more oxygen and maintain high speeds. This means that the mouth dries out and this in turn can cause more cavities. Why? Because the more saliva your mouth produces, the less chances of germ or debris accumulation in the mouth.

Dentists also say that when you are running or participating in vigorous physical activity, the mouth forms sticky mucous like saliva that traps sugars and acids in the mouth. This too leads to increased number of cavities.

Solution?

Rinsing is one option, while drinking more water is another. This would avoid the mouth from becoming too dry and bacteria would not collect inside the mouth. What’s more, it will also prevent dryness in the body throughout. Sugar-free gum that has been sweetened with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally, also aids in preventing any kind of bacteria or plaque accumulation.

3.    Damaged Caps or Fillings

If you are one of that athlete, who has got some work done in their mouth, like a tooth filling or crown fixed then consuming chewy or hard foods is going to be damaging for such works. Keep in mind that any work you get done can never be as strong as the natural bone or tooth, which means that the base is weak and such foods can easily damage them.

Solution?

If you have some kind of dental work done, then you will need to become and remain more conscious of what you eat and drink. Instead of hard candies or sugary drinks that give instant sugar rush, instead opt for natural foods that release glucose like peanut butter energy bites, bananas or apples.

4.    Tearing open with Teeth

This is something that you just need to stop, athlete or not! It damages teeth faster than you can exclaim no. it chips the tooth and harms the enamel.

Solution

Don’t do it. It will take some time getting used to, but practice makes perfect!

5.    Clenching Teeth

This is something that most athletes do without being aware of doing it. They either do it when they are completely involved in their vigorous routine or when they are sleeping. Even though there are a lot of mouth guards available, most athletes don’t wear them when they are working out.

Solution

This is something that will take some time getting rid of. It can only be achieved through the practice of relaxing the entire body as well as the facial features. The less tense the athlete is, the less chances of clenching teeth.

For night grinding, you will need to see a dentist who would prescribe some sort of guard or other treatment.

May 19, 2017

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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