Despite brushing their teeth at least twice daily, professional athletes have poorer oral health than the general population. A study of elite athletes in the UK found that almost three-quarters had cavities in their teeth, and more than half had tooth erosion. Apart from the apparent need for regular brushing and flossing, dentists must educate professional athletes about lesser-known risk factors for dental decay and erosion.
1. Use of Energy Drinks
Experienced dentists from Chermside to Wavell Heights will tell you that most elite athletes have poor oral health, despite brushing their teeth daily. The study’s authors say that energy drinks may be to blame. Energy drinks are high in sugar and caffeine, leading to cavities and other dental problems. Most athletes consume drinks with as much as ten teaspoons of sugar in one can before or during games. Sugar is an accelerating factor for tooth decay. When bacteria mix with all this sugar, it produces acid, which destroys tooth enamel leading to tooth decay.
Therefore, avoiding consuming sugary foods and beverages before playing sports is best. Hence, despite brushing their teeth twice daily, most athletes have poor oral health because they drink sugary energy drinks during their routine workouts. To prevent tooth decay, experts recommend avoiding drinks with such high levels of sugar. Athletes can consider switching to healthier alternatives like smoothies, protein shakes, and water.
2. High Consumption of Energy Gels
Energy gels are sticky and full of sugar, leading to tooth decay. The sugary, sticky gel creates an environment conducive to bacteria growth. The sugar sticks to teeth while providing a food source for the bacteria. Brushing immediately after consuming an energy gel may help prevent plaque buildup, but brushing will not remove the sticky residue left behind.
Reducing energy gels’ consumption or switching to non-sugar-based gels may help athletes maintain good oral health. If this does not work, other products on the market have a design specific for elite athletes with dental issues, such as chamois cloths or wipes containing xylitol or anti-microbial ingredients.
However, for a sustainable plan, they should research online and develop a strategy that best suits their needs (e.g., specific product, time frame, frequency). As dental problems due to increased energy gel consumption is a recent development, it is essential to continue monitoring the situation to develop guidelines and remedies if necessary.
3. Regular Consumption of Energy Bars
Many elite athletes consume energy bars regularly as part of their training regimen. However, these bars are often high in sugar and other carbohydrates, leading to cavities and other oral health problems despite a healthy dental care routine. While daily brushing can help reduce the risk of these problems, it is not always enough to prevent tooth decay or gum disease when you increase your intake of sugary snacks or drinks.
A better alternative would be to limit the consumption of sugary foods or beverages while still maintaining a regular brushing schedule. It’s also crucial to visit an experienced dentist for professional teeth cleaning at least twice per year. During teeth cleaning appointments, plaque and tartar buildup that you cannot remove by brushing alone will require special tools like ultrasonic scaling devices or lasers.
4. Due to Dry Mouth During Intensive Training
While it’s essential to brush your teeth at least twice a day, elite athletes often have poor oral health due to dry mouth during intensive training. That is because they are constantly sweating and losing fluids, which can lead to a decrease in saliva production. Saliva is crucial in protecting our teeth from bacteria by neutralizing acids that cause tooth decay. Dentine is prone to acids and becomes exposed as the saliva levels drop; this makes it easier for cavities to form.
To combat this issue, athletes should drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat salty foods such as nuts or salted pretzels to stimulate saliva production. If an athlete has been experiencing these symptoms for over three months, they should contact their dentist about possible treatments. Also, decreasing saliva production can increase the harmful bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. The lack of protection afforded by low saliva levels may be one reason many elite athletes have unhealthy mouths despite their best efforts with brushing and flossing daily.
It’s imperative to note that athletes may stand a higher chance of having poor oral health than the average person due to their high-intensity training and dietary habits. It’s therefore crucial for athletes to take proactive measures such as;
- Visiting a dentist every six months
- Receiving fluoride treatments
- Behavior change by reducing intake of sports drinks
- Working with professionals to develop an intervention program
- Undergoing scaling and root planning to maintain good oral hygiene
As age passes, gums recede, exposing more surface area where bacteria can grow in the mouth and cause decay – that’s why dentists recommend people to make regular trips to their offices.