Do you consider yourself to be the athletic type? A force to reckon with in the arena of sport, and fan of sports beverages, gels, chews and bars? If so, you may wish to consider how those little power boosts are affecting your teeth. The research is in folks, and the news isn’t pretty. We’ll walk you through the science behind why dentists are starting to see an upswing in cavities among athletes (particularly endurance athletes), and run a few suggestions past you that’ll keep you hydrated, energized, and the continued proud owner of your own teeth.
What’s the problem?
Dentists are seeing more athletes in their offices with bad teeth for two main reasons:
Sports beverages and snacks consumed by athletes are packed full of sugar (and usually come in a sticky/gummy form that sticks to teeth).
Intense exercise itself appears to influence saliva in a way that encourages tooth decay. During a workout, the amount of saliva decreases, but the pH of saliva increases. Your mouth prefers a good amount of saliva with a neutral pH to protect teeth. Read more here.
What’s the alternative to the beverages and snacks?
We realize getting the most out of your performance in sport is important, and that giving up such performance enhancing (and sustaining) products is often impossible for some athletes. That said, if you have the ability to do so, go natural as often as possible. When you need a hydrating beverage, try watermelon juice, which packs a mean punch and is about as close to performance gels as you’ll find. When you need a snack, fruit is often your best choice. If we had to suggest a single alternative, it’s hard to beat the benefits and portability of a banana. If you’re shaking your head in disagreement because you’re aware ingesting too much fiber, or too slow a carb could hamper rather than enhance performance, consult with your team or individual nutritionist for the recommendations that best suit you.
But I like my gels and bars. Have any other ideas?
You bet. Here are a few suggestions:
Rinse! You’re going to be consuming a lot of water anyway, so swish, swish, swish between sticky treats to dislodge leftover snack bits from your teeth. It’s because these sugary snacks stay lodged against your teeth and gums that they become a problem, so set them free with water. Use water in this same fashion in between guzzling your sports beverages as well. Of course, keep in mind how much you tend to sweat out, vs. how much you tend to retain – there are only so many trips to the bathroom you want to be taking on race/game day.
Use a straw. If allowable (and feasible), drink acidic beverages through a straw. This’ll carry the liquid past your teeth as opposed to bathing them in it.
Bring a toothbrush. Since you’re already carrying so much gear with you to endurance events why not pack a toothbrush? Between the race end and your commute back home, you’ll burn through several hours where these nasty sweet treats will still be sticking to your teeth. Start a new trend: as they’re preparing for the awards ceremony, go brush! You’ll be able to show folks how buff AND smart you are at the same time.
Have a great time on the field, on the road, in the air, and on the water – and take care of those teeth!