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Being an elite athlete or a great runner has always been synonymous with fit and healthy. But what Dentists may find in the mouth paints a very different picture.
It is often recommended to “fuel up” and hydrate to improve performance. The products designed to do this can be highly acidic and full of sugar. Sugar laden sport drinks, gels and chews commonly used are viscous and sticky and will hang around the teeth for long periods of time. These are like a Christmas feast for the cavity causing bacteria. Clean away the plaque that sticks along the gum line and white chalky lines have been etched into the enamel from the acid producing bacteria, the start of cavities.
Worse still, drinks splashed across front teeth and swished around the mouth have created waves of thinned enamel. These waves often follow precisely the way the drinks are consumed. Obliterating the enamel completely in some locations will leave the teeth raw and sensitive.
During high-intensity training the mouth also dries out, removing the critical saliva. Saliva is the lifesaving substance that teeth long for, to push the minerals back into the teeth. Many runners are mouth breathers with saliva that has become thick and frothy. The type of saliva that does little to wash away and neutralise the acids and lubricate the mouth.
There is also a high incidence of broken teeth, failed restorations and short teeth. Runners and athletes are commonly teeth grinders or clenches, especially during periods of intense work out. Teeth that have already been softened by the acids are easily worn away. Sticky and chewy protein bars and energy blocks will help to remove fillings and crowns already struggling to hang on, to short weak teeth. Creating restorative plans that will last can be complex and challenging and require expert dentistry.
So what should you do? Rinse with water after consumption of sugars and acidic drinks. It is best to not consume them at all, but try and avoid sugar the remainder of the day to give the teeth a break. It has been shown that it is the number of repeated sugar and acid attacks throughout a day that causes the most destruction. There is much debate as to whether the consumption of these products actually help to improve performance. Use products such as tooth mousse that will help to restore lost minerals. And once the oral environment is healthy, consider a dental splint that clips to the top teeth during the night to protect against further wear to the teeth.
We have also performed many full mouth rehabilitations, having undertaken the expert dental training required to match your elite level fitness training.