Athletes may look great on the outside, with their muscular physique and trim waistlines, but there is more than meets the eye. When dentists examine semi-professional to professional and even Olympic athletes, they have found that the dental health of the athletes is poor. This is surprising to many people because physicians recommend doing moderate-intensity physical exercises for 30 minutes per day on at least five days per week. Understanding why athletes are prone to bad teeth might help you to take care of your own dental health.
Physical Exercises and the Teeth
Athletes who spend many hours per day training for a long period of time experience considerable negative effects on their teeth. Scientists found that the more hours per week athletes train or play, the worse their tooth and periodontal health. This is true even when the researchers controlled for age and frequency of dental checkups. Open breathing and mouth guards may be partly to blame, but sugary drinks and bad nutrition deserve a majority of the fault in why athletes have poor tooth and gum health.
Sugary Sports Drinks’ Role in the Oral Health of Athletes
Intense athletic workouts could cause participants to become dehydrated, so many coaches encourage them to drink electrolyte drinks. These sugary sports drinks wreak havoc on oral hygiene. The sugar in the sports drinks provides bacteria with the opportunity to grow, releasing acids that wear away the enamel of the teeth and eventually cause a cavity. It is not uncommon for an athlete to drink many servings of these sugary drinks in just one intense training session or competition. Most athletes do not stop in the middle of a long training session or competition to go and brush the sugar off of their teeth. Daily consumption of these drinks combined with a lack of oral hygiene creates an tooth health disaster. In a study of 187 British football players, 37 percent were found to have active dental cavities, and 53 percent had dental erosion.
Improper Dieting and Dental Health
Athletes are known for bad nutrition practices. Some athletes need to bulk up, so they mix up protein powders or eat sugary and sticky energy bars. Those sticky and sugary substances stay on the teeth for a long time, contributing to the risk of dental cavities. Some athletes try to lose weight before a weigh-in at a competition. Improper dieting could deplete the body of calcium, which is needed for healthy teeth. Other types of improper dieting include avoiding certain food groups. For example, some athletes might avoid eating fats. However, fats are needed for your body to absorb vitamin D and calcium, which form dental enamel.
Physical Therapy for Athletic Injuries
During those intense workouts, athletes may become injured. Failing to warm up could lead to a torn muscle. Poor form could strain or sprain a ligament or tendon. Physical therapy aims to help athletes regain their strength and range of motion. With physical therapy, an athlete may return to play faster.