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Oral Hygiene Concerns in Athletes

The latest study released by the British Dental Journal has indicated that despite the outward appearance by most athletes that they are symbols or the epitome of health and wellness, the data shows their oral hygiene is less than up to par in comparison to their peers. It’s not that they aren’t brushing or flossing their teeth regularly, but there are other factors that are contributing as to why the elite athletes in particular experience more tooth-related ailments, leaving untreated tooth decay and gum inflammation more prevalent amongst them.

Why You Ask?

The main reason is actually pretty simple and obvious. Athletes are prone to refueling their active bodies with high-acid drinks, gels, and energy bars – all of which can weaken tooth enamel or damage teeth due to extreme sugary content and added levels of acidity.

The report discovered that nearly half (49 percent) of the top endurance athletes across the globe have untreated tooth decay, and the majority of them even had early signs of gum inflammation- all preventative. And the scary part is… it’s not their oral hygiene. These same athletes who fell into this category illustrated not only proper dental hygiene, but better than the general population exceeding the amount of time they spent brushing and flossing. 94% percent brushed their teeth more than the average of at least twice a day and 44 % flossed daily.

Breakdown the Science and Break the Habits (Not Your Teeth).

In a scientific process known as decalcification, the sugar and acid which is often added to sports drinks and gels diminishes the surface of the tooth and actually dissolves the tooth enamel. When the tooth enamel is impaired, there is less protection and so it leads to cavities.  Once enamel dissolves, it does not replenish or come back. This type of loss and decay means permanent damage to the tooth and overall oral health.

When an athlete chooses to consume these types of drinks vs. H2O as a way of hydrating and recharging, the risk of tarnishing the enamel doubles. Plaque uses sugar and starches as food and expels acid as a by-product. If plaque is not removed regularly by brushing and flossing, the build-up can lead to additional decalcification, cavities, gum disease and loss of the bone that holds teeth in place.

How Does This Effect Orthodontic Patients?

Most sports drinks have a negative impact on those athletes who are undergoing orthodontic treatment because of their orthodontics appliances like traditional metal braces, aligners, or other materials and devices. This means these athletes should be extra mindful to select these drinks as they are on harder on their teeth.

Individuals who wear braces may be prone to visible white marks (a sign of decalcification) around your brackets as they can appear within a couple of months if plaque is not removed. For those individuals wearing aligners, the result of damage may be amplified and occur all over because the acidic liquid seeps into the aligners and sits right up against the teeth.

What Have You Learned?  Skip the Sports Drinks and Gels.

When seeking hydration, opt for water or other less-acidic alternatives like natural juices with no added preservatives. If that’s not an option, choose to consider swishing water after each sip, or drinking through a straw and/or brushing and flossing after scheduled workouts when consumption is frequent. A fluoride rinse may also be a helpful option. Stay on top of your regular visits to the dentist- every six months for a professional cleanings and check-ups, or more often if recommended.

Be aware that soda, sweet tea, bubbly flavored water and other carbonated beverages have a similar impact to your oral health.

Trusting Your Orthodontist.

You can achieve a healthy, beautiful smile at any age. Our KidZdent orthodontists are experts in orthodontia and dentofacial orthopedics – properly aligned teeth and jaws – and possess the skills and experience to give you your best smile. That’s just what we want for our patients.

For more information or to schedule a complimentary orthodontic consultation, please give us a call at 732-679-2323.

2 thoughts on “Oral Hygiene Concerns in Athletes”

  1. Dentistry Lewis Center

    Oral hygiene is a must. No matter it is about hygiene of kids, adults or old age people. Those who are engaged in sports activities, athletic activities etc. also need to make sure that they brush teeth and floss everyday. Thank you very much for sharing this information here!

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