Are Olympians at a Significantly Higher Risk of Tooth Decay?

The Rio Olympic Games are exciting the nation and inspiring many of us to enhance our fitness or take up new sports and activities. Like many athletes, we may be encouraged to seek the aid of energising sports drinks, gels and lollies, or supplements to boost our performance. However like athletes, people across the UK are being warned about the dangers of these sports products on their oral health.

A report in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that sports people are at a significantly higher risk of tooth erosion than non-athletes. Focusing on triathletes, the research showed that athletes engaging in more weekly training had more cavities than those who trained less.

The report found that the athletes’ high carbohydrate consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, contributes to a higher acidity level in the mouth and a higher risk of tooth decay and erosion.

Why exactly are athletes at risk of poor oral health?

  • A higher sugar consumption: the amount of sugar in sports drinks, gels, lollies and supplements to keep up your energy, promotes acid production for oral bacteria and puts the teeth under attack.
  • A higher acidity concentration: your enamel is the protective layer of the teeth, which can be weakened by acids with a pH lower than 5.5. Many sports beverages contain acids with a pH below 4.5.
  • Consistent exposure: taking frequent sips of your sports drink during your activity will put your teeth under prolonged exposure to the damaging sugars and acids.
  • Dehydration: being dehydrated may lower saliva production, which protects the teeth by diluting sugars and acids, clearing bacteria away and re-mineralising the mouth.

Not only can sports beverages increase the risk of tooth decay and cavities, as the bacteria and acidic production breaks down the teeth, they could contribute to enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity, or more serious issues like gum disease.

7 steps to great oral health and sports performance

If you’ll be participating in sports or want to up your workouts this summer, here are some of the ways you can protect your teeth and maintain good oral health:

  1. If you can, avoid consuming sports drinks or related products, and stick with water. If you need carbohydrates to boost your energy, switch to fruit or whole grains!
  2. Read the labels of any drinks you buy to steer clear of drinks high in sugar and acids.
  3. Re-mineralise the surfaces of your teeth with things like mouthwash, chewing gum, and other specialist dental products.
  4. Seek advice from your dentist about preventative care to maintain your oral health whilst carrying out your sports regime.
  5. You can also increase your uptake of re-mineralising foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurts. Opt for foods that are high in calcium and have a higher PH level.
  6. You could dilute any sugary or acidic drinks you consumer with water to reduce their impact on your teeth.
  7. It takes around half an hour for the saliva in your mouth to of saliva begin to repair your teeth, so avoid rinsing or brushing your teeth until after and avoid consuming them right before you go to sleep.

At Southview Dental Care we offer a wide range of preventative and hygiene services and would be happy to advise anyone on their oral health and sports hydration needs. To find out more about the dental treatments we offer or to book an appointment with our expert team, you can call our Edenbridge practice on 01732 865021 or email info@svdc.co.uk.

This page was last updated on the 13th of April 2017