Is there a link between poor oral health and sports?

With Rio 2016 well underway, we thought we’d take a closer look at the link between poor oral health and sports. With many of today’s competitive athletes relying on energy drinks, bars, and gels, it’s important to consider the downside of consuming too many of these products too. In this week’s blog, we’re investigating the damage that sugary, energy-boosting products can have and offering our healthcare advice for a happy, healthy smile.

The latest dental research in energy drinks & gels

sports energy foods and powders

The link between sugary energy drinks and gels and poor dental health isn’t new. There have been a number of research studies carried out over the last few years that suggest a strong link between the two. In 2014, a team of dental researchers found that sports people were at a much higher risk of tooth erosion that those that didn’t partake in sports. This was due to their high sugar consumption – thanks to sports drinks, gels, and bars – which are often consumed during training.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, revealed worrying statistics following the 2012 Olympics:

“Following the London 2012 Olympics, research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that more than half (55 per cent) of the athletes had tooth decay. It also revealed more than three in four athletes had gingivitis, which is an early stage of gum disease, and 15 per cent had signs of periodontitis, which is an irreversible gum infection.”

Why are sports and energy drinks so bad?

woman consuming sports energy drink

Just like fizzy pop and sweets, sports drinks and gels are full of sugar. This lowers the mouth’s pH and creates an acidic environment – resulting in decay and erosion. The acid attacks the teeth and lead to the loss of tooth enamel; this also leaves teeth discoloured and sometimes sensitive. At a minimum, following severe bouts of acid attacks, a person will need fillings. However, tooth decay can also result in tooth loss.

What can we do to improve dental health in sports?

dentist checkup of man's teeth

To improve oral health in the sporting world, there are a number of changes that need to be made. Energy drinks and gels should be used sparingly and alternative carbohydrate, low-sugar foods should be a consumed as a pre-workout alternative. Young sportspeople and sports enthusiasts should also avoid using gels and energy drinks – especially if they’re not competing. There really is no need to put oral health at risk in these circumstances.

On the odd occasion that sports gels and drinks are used, it’s a good idea to brush your teeth after the sporting activity. This will minimise the damage caused by sugars consumed. Low-sugar milk products will also create a more alkaline environment – ideal for minimising and preventing decay.

To ensure optimum dental care, why not explore our Family Dentistry services? We can look after all your needs here at AP Smilecare – no matter what your age. One of our services includes the creation of custom mouth guards, designed to protect teeth from sporting injuries. You can find out more about this service and our general dental care over on our Family Dentistry page.

Do you regularly consume sports drinks and energy gels? If so, have you noticed any changes in your oral health? Share your story with us in the comments below or tweet us @APSmilecare