While we all know that athletes are typically in better shape than most, according to the American Dental Association, athletes have a much more difficult time staying cavity free.
Recently the American Dental Association did a study testing athletes and non-athletes to determine if indeed athletes were more at risk. Although the salivary output and pH of athletes and non-athletes was similar when they were inactive, athletes showed an increased risk for dental erosion and their salivary flow rates decreased and saliva pH increased significantly during activity. In addition, scientists said that there was a significant correlation between the cumulative training time of the athletes and their likelihood to have cavities and erosion. The effects of physical training and use of sports drinks and nutrition lower the pH of athletes’ saliva to levels where dental erosion can occur, said Dr. Cornelia Frese, lead author for the study.
Dr. Frese also said that physiological changes in the athletes contribute to the problems.
“Exercise activates the sympathetic drive and suppresses the parasympathetic innervation of salivary glands,” she said. “Additionally athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise and the mouth gets dry. If they consume sports nutrition/drinks at this moment saliva protection might be diminished.”
Athletes need a special oral health regimen, she said, and “use of a fluoride containing toothpaste is important. The fluoride in the toothpaste increases the resistance of tooth hard tissue against cavities and erosive challenges.”
Now, we absolutely do not want to discourage any of you to stop being active in fact we encourage you to be active. We just want our athlete patients and the parents of our young athletes to be aware of this issue. Between dry mouth, teeth grinding and sports drinks/bars we really need to keep a closer eye on the dental well-being of these patients. Athletes really need to be wearing athletic guards and more frequent dental cleanings may not be a bad idea. Keep in mind, you only get one set of permanent teeth!
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