A recent study* of the effects of endurance training on oral health has revealed a number of interesting findings, potentially relevant for your oral health. Long training sessions were found to be associated with some detrimental effects on the mouth and teeth. Previous studies have suggested similar concerns, but couldn’t explain why**.
Researchers from the dental school at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany (and other institutions) compared 35 competitive triathletes and, 35 age and gender matched healthy adult non-athletes by conducting an oral examination, assessment of oral status with special regard to tooth decay and erosion, saliva testing during inactivity, and a self-administered questionnaire about eating, drinking, and oral hygiene behaviour. In addition, athletes were queried about their training habits and intake of beverages and sports nutrition.
A correlation was identified between dental problems and the cumulative amount of time athletes trained each week. Higher rates of decay, tartar formation, gingivitis and erosion of tooth enamel were found for athletes undertaking heavy workouts or prolonged training (greater than 9 hours per week). The greater the number of weekly workout hours logged, the higher the risk of cavities.
No association was found with the reported consumption of sports drinks or athletes diets for these findings. Rather, these findings were subsequently attributed to changes in the quantity and quality of saliva during prolonged workouts.
During rest, saliva production and composition for athletes was found to be no different when compared to that of non-athletes. However, during incremental running tests and at maximum workloads, the athletes were found to produce significantly less saliva overall (despite consuming water or other beverages during the workouts). The chemistry of athletes’ saliva also became different during workouts – becoming progressively more alkaline as length of workouts progressed (developing a higher pH, rather than being at a normal and protective neutral pH).
Since saliva has a protective function in the mouth, the effect of having less saliva, or an altered version of it, for many hours each week, could contribute to more dental problems over the longer term.
These studies were also reported in a New York Times blog article*** and are listed below.
*Frese C, et al. Effect of endurance training on dental erosion, caries and saliva, Scand J Med Sci Sports 2014; Jun 11. Retrieved from http//www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24917276/
**Needleman I, et al. Oral health and impact on performance of athletes participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games – a cross-sectional study. Br J Sports Med 2013; Nov 47(16): 1054-8. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24068332/
***Reynolds, G. (2014, September 24, Wed). Is Exercise bad for your teeth? Web. Blog. Phys Ed New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/is-exercise-bad-for-your-teeth/
What Does it Mean for You?
So, if you are a professional athlete undertaking prolonged endurance training, spending a lot of time training for and playing recreational sports, perhaps preparing to run a marathon or just trying to hard to keep fit and training more than 4 times a week, for a couple of hours at a time (each session), consider having a dental check up soon. Maintaining regular dental visits for risk adapted preventive care could help you mitigate the detrimental effects prolonged workouts may have on your mouth to keep you dentally fit too!
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That’s all for now, until next week, keep smiling! 🙂
Dr. Maria and the Team at Melbourne Dentistry