In a potentially controversial finding by The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and reported by the New York Times, heavy exercise and training may give you unhealthy teeth . The positive effects of exercise and regular physical activity cannot be overstated. People who exercise, on average, live longer, have healthier hearts, low blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol, and are generally happier and less likely to be prone to depression and other mental illnesses but unfortunately it tends to give you unhealthy teeth.
However, the strain of exercise and the loss of water that occurs, even while trying to remain hydrated, has been shown to have some negative effect on teeth. Between two groups, those who exercised heavily were shown to have significantly more erosion of the enamel. A similar study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a large number of athletes who performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics also had poor oral health, with high incidence of tooth decay and gum disease.
The original study didn’t examine why the athletes were at higher risk of issues, but many scientists and practitioners of sports medicine suspected it might have been linked to the consumption of sports drinks. Due to their viscous nature, sports drinks like Powerade and Gatorade, tend to stick to your teeth longer and the sugars serve as fuel for the bacteria which cause tooth decay. However, further research showed that there was little causal relationship between the consumption of sports drinks and the development of oral health issues in athletes in a gender and age matched study between athletes and healthy regular adults.
Compared to the ‘regular’ adults, athletes had higher instances of tooth decay. And the more they worked out, the higher the amount of time spent exercising, the higher the incidence of tooth decay. As you work out more, your blood can become more anaerobic which results in your breathing more heavily and thus your blood and bodily fluids becoming alkaline, which causes a contribution to tartar and plaque, the driving factors in tooth decay and gum disease.
What is surprising; however, is that despite hydration during and after the workout, whether it was with water or sports drinks, that the contribution of the latter to tooth decay is negligible. Dentists have always recommended against consumption of sports drinks due to their sugary nature and the negative effect they have on teeth, but this finding may turn this idea around. Traditionally, diet and nutrition were seen as the cause of tooth decay, but there are likely other factors involving the individual’s body chemistry and predisposition.
The most important thing until the causal and correlative relationships are firmly established, to continue, especially if you are a serious athlete, to brush and floss your teeth. You may also want to seek a dentist who specializes in sports dentistry and up your routine checkups to 3 or more a year to be on the safe side.