Study: Exercise May Be Bad for Your Teeth

New research finds a link between exercise and poor oral health


Recent research that sought to examine the effects of endurance training on oral health found that exercise (intense, prolonged periods of training) may cause dental issues like tooth erosion and cavities.

The study, published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, compared the oral health of 35 competitive triathletes and 35 non-athletes of the same ages and genders.

Participants completed questionnaires about their eating, drinking and oral hygiene habits and were subjected to oral examinations that paid particular attention to cavities, tooth erosion and the chemical composition of their saliva.

After 15 of the athletes completed an intense running workout on an outdoor track, the scientists collected a second saliva sample before comparing information from the two groups.

What the researchers found was that when compared with the control group, the athletes exhibited greater erosion of their tooth enamel and more cavities. They also found that the more time an athlete spent training each week, the more cavities they were likely to have.

Athletes have been accused of poor oral health in the past, with many speculating that the issue might be related to an increased consumption of sugary sports drinks and energy bars. However, this study found no evidence to support that theory.

What it did reveal, though, was that despite there being no difference in the chemical make-up of each groups’ saliva samples when they were tested while at rest, the samples collected from the athletes during exercise grew more alkaline over time, which is believed to be a cause of tartar build-up and other dental issues.

The athletes also produced less saliva, which also serves as a source of protection for teeth, as the workout continued, regardless of how much liquid they consumed.

That said, the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg told the NY Times that because the study was small and short the findings aren’t necessarily 100 percent indicative of what the results revealed.

In other words, worrying about how your workouts are affecting your oral health probably isn’t a good excuse not to exercise.

“All we can say,” Frese said on the NY Times Well Blog, “is that prolonged endurance training might be a risk factor for oral health.”

Though, it is a good reminder to take good care of your teeth and drink more water while you exercise. 

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