Exercise is good for your body, and your teeth.
Studies show that exercising regularly helps lower your risk of developing gum disease by 54%. In fact, even occasional exercise will reduce your risk by 33%.
So, is there any risk to your teeth and gums from exercising? That depends. Sometimes your fitness and physical activities can present certain risks to your oral health.
5 Things that Can Damage Your Teeth When You Exercise
- Dental Injury – Damaging your teeth during physical fitness and recreational activities is definitely a risk of exercise. Every year more than 3 million teeth get knocked out playing recreational and sports activities. Blunt force from a ball, bat, an elbow or a foot can do a lot of damage. But so can many sports and activities that involve motion – mountain biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, horseback riding. Wearing a sports mouth guard when you’re out their playing offers insurance against the cost and hassle of replacing a missing tooth. Our custom designed sports mouth guards will fit comfortably to your unique teeth and bite, compared to the boil and bite mouthguards you can buy at the store. They’ll feel good, and look good (choose from several colors!) when you’re out playing hard.
- Sports Drinks, Energy Bars & Gels – Take it easy on sports drinks, energy bars and gels to fuel or refuel your body when you’re exercising. Sports drinks do offer plenty of electrolytes, but they’re also loaded with sugar and are highly acidic. This combo can quickly erode the enamel of your teeth and promote tooth decay. In fact, drinking some sports drinks consistently for as little as five days can damage your teeth. Energy bars and gels are also high in sugars and they can stick to your teeth, and linger there longer, which will contribute to a build up of cavity causing bacteria.
- Your Saliva Flow & Composition Can Change – Excessive exercise could also damage your teeth by changing the composition and flow of your saliva. More workout hours logged per week could result in a higher risk of cavities. A study noted that there was a significantly higher rate of tooth erosion in triathletes compared to non-athletes. In addition, the researchers found that athletes who engaged in more weekly training had more cavities than those who trained less. Why? People who spend a considerably more time exercising had a higher pH or alkaline content in their saliva, while also producing less saliva. It seems that this combination neutralizes the proteins in saliva that can fight off bacteria and help prevent tooth decay. Without a healthy saliva flow, food particles and bacteria linger in your teeth, as aren’t flushed away. Keeping well hydrated while you exercise, and afterwards, will help combat your dry mouth. But sometimes chronic dry mouth may be a result of a health issue, such as diabetes, or from taking various medications, such as antihistamines or decongestants for allergies. If you believe you suffer from chronic dry mouth, please contact us to schedule an exam.
- Clenching Your Teeth – Exercise-induced-bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding) can also damage your teeth. Impact sports and recreational activities like skateboarding can increase your risk of a tooth injury, but so can doing certain exercises like lifting weights. Whether you’re squatting or deadlifting, the strain you are exerting from moving a heavy weight can cause you to clench or grind your teeth. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching during exercise is actually pretty common. It also can cause a tremendous load on your teeth and jaw joints. Excessive clenching may lead to chips, crack lines, holes, or fractures in your teeth. And if you grind your teeth when you exercise this could also contribute to gum recession and wear down the enamel of your teeth. A mouth guard creates a protective barrier between your teeth, and helps cushion the clenching or grinding when you lift. Wearing a properly made sports mouth guard that aligns and supports your jaw will not only protect your teeth, but it will also protect your facial, head, and neck muscles. If you’re strength training, you’re probably already geared-up with several accessories like knee sleeves, or weight-lifting belts, so what’s one more (small thing) to add to your protective work-out gear?
- Open Mouth Breathing – Are you a mouth breather when you’re out there jogging? Breathing through your your mouth, rather than through your nose, is another risk to your teeth. Why? It reduces the saliva flow in your mouth by drying it up. Not having enough saliva in your mouth to flush out food particles, and keep things clean, gives the bacteria in your mouth a great environment in which to grow, and promote tooth decay. It might be a challenge for many mouth breathers to kick the habit and switch to nose breathing. If you can’t, drink plenty of water when your exercise. This will help aid your dry mouth during work outs.
Physical fitness is good for your body, and it’s good for your teeth…as long as you minimize some of the risks to your teeth that come along with staying in shape.
Adding a custom sports mouth guard to your arsenal of personal protection will serve you and your family well. Request one if you have an appointment coming up. And, if not, please call our office at (206) 524-1000 to schedule an appointment or reach out to us online.