If You Are A Runner, Are You At Risk For Worse Oral Health?

I’ll bet this question is not one that comes to mind when you think about the health of someone who is a runner.  You would think that a runner would have to live a lifestyle and eat a diet that would maintain good health and a lean body to enable them to participate in this energy-sapping activity.  I recently read an article about runners and oral health that I would like to share with you.

Runners suffer from some health issues

Most runners will suffer from over-use injuries or skin cancer at some point in his or her running career.  They otherwise score pretty well in other measures of good health but recently new research has brought one area of concern to light — that of oral health.   The new research reveals that runners may suffer increased risks of tooth erosion and cavities than non-runners.  Does this surprise you?  It certainly did surprise me.  Let’s find out why the research is showing this.

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports

There is a team of German researchers who did some dental research into the oral health of triathletes.  What they found was that significantly higher rates of tooth erosion in triathletes than in non-athletes.  It seems that they also found that those athletes who trained more had higher incidences than those who did not exercise and train as much.

Why is this the case?

Since inquiring minds need to know, I will share what THIS inquiring mind found out.  As we all know, athletes consume more carbohydrates than non-athletes to maintain the energy levels needed to compete in their chosen sports.  Those carbohydrates come in the form of sports drinks, gels and bars and these foods can decrease the PH levels in the mouth to below the critical level of 5.5.  This lowering of the PH in the mouth can result in erosion and caries.  Add to this situation the fact that most athletes will breathe through their mouths during periods of hard exercise.  This habit causes the mouth to get dry and less saliva is produced to protect the teeth.

The Study

The study was comprised of athletes and non-athletes.  Some of the athletes they studied drank sports drinks while some drank water.  They did not find any significant difference in cavities between the two groups but there was significantly more tooth erosion in the athlete group as compared to the non-athlete group.  Saliva profiles were tested and found to be similar at rest but, when the exercise began, the athletes produced less saliva and what they produced was more acidic.  Saliva is considered in the dental community to be important to good tooth health.

Based on the findings of this study, it suggested that endurance training can have a detrimental effect on one’s oral health.  Does that mean you shouldn’t exercise?  Absolutely not!  Our bodies need to be in motion to get and remain healthy in all its parts.  However, if you are involved in endurance training, it behooves you to consult with your dental professional to discuss how to avoid these issues to achieve and maintain good oral health.  Your Periodontist in Long Island can help.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.


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