When was the last time you finished a race and said, “Boy am I glad I got that cavity repaired – it made me perform so much better!”
Unless you’re a dentist, probably never, right?
In fact, oral health is usually the last thing any athlete thinks about when preparing or training for a race or game. But studies are showing that it should not be last on the list. Actually, your dental health does have a direct correlation to your performance, not just in cycling, but in any and every sport.
This point was proven back in September of 2011 with a study conducted on triathlon athletes. This study confirmed what researchers have suspected all along – that athletes are at a high risk for cavities and other dental diseases.
The study, a combination of a questionnaire and an oral examination, was done on a sample of athletes from the New Zealand Dunedin triathlon club. It was aimed at identifying risk factors for athletes and dental diseases.
Here’s how it went: The athletes first filled out a questionnaire about their training, oral health and diet. Then they participated in the oral examination. What they found was a group fitting a very high risk profile for dental cavities and diseases.
1) 83.9% of the athletes consumed sports drinks while training
2) 48.4% described their consumption of these drinks as “little sips, often, from a bottle”
3) 93.5% reported eating during training
And 4) only 3.2% of the athletes viewed their training as high risk to their oral health
So just what do these numbers mean?
Being in an “at-risk” group means you have a greater chance of developing cavities and dental diseases than the majority of the population. It becomes of greater concern for athletes because of the impact that oral health problems have from a training standpoint.
¨Sports performance can be affected by infections caused by poor oral hygiene. For example, periodontitis causes inflammation on teeth and soft tissues; however, if the infection goes to the bone there is the possibility that it could spread through the bloodstream, causing harm to another organ in the body,¨ explained Dr. Telma Rubinstein, a dentists at Prisma Dental Center.
Oral health is extremely important to athletes, so to maintain optimum performance levels, here are some things to keep in mind:
The impact of dehydration. Repetitive dehydration can spell disaster for your teeth and your performance. Whenever the mouth gets dry to the point of dehydration that means saliva is greatly decreased as well. Saliva is what keeps your teeth bacteria-free, without it, it creates a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Athletes are at a greater risk for dehydration because of the excessive water loss that occurs with training or racing.
Avoid the sports drinks. Sports drinks are marketed as “replacing the electrolytes lost in rigorous physical activity.” Unfortunately, they are also loaded with sugar, containing between 4 – 5 heaping spoonfuls of sugar per 5 oz. serving. Considering the study mentioned previously, while athletes are drinking the sports drinks, at little increments at a time, they are constantly flushing sugar over their teeth. The constant flow of sugary substances means that the teeth are bathed in acid over and over again. If electrolyte loss is your concern, the better alternative is to drink water and eat a banana. Bananas are packed with potassium which is an electrolyte. Plus, its carbohydrate content speeds recovery after strenuous exercise.
“One little cavity isn’t a big deal.” This is a statement said by millions of people around the world to avoid going to the dentist. The truth is, cavities are a big deal, even little ones. And they are an especially big deal for an athlete.
Picture this: You are training for a race. You like to drink sports drinks during your training. You drink water too, but more often grab a bottle of Gatorade. As a result of sports drinks, a little cavity forms. You don’t even notice it. Then with the repetitive use of sports drinks, it gets bigger. Every once in a while you feel a pain, but it’s not enough for you to go in to the dentist. You continue to train for the race. Before you know it, you are actually feeling a lot of pain in your tooth. It’s gotten so bad that you are having trouble with your workouts. Finally you go in to the dentist. He has bad news: your “little cavity” has morphed into a giant abscess and now it requires a root canal to fix. Plus, he also notices bacteria forming along your gumline, which could mean gum disease.
So one little cavity is a big deal. In fact, they don’t get better, only worse.
The best bet for optimal performance for any athlete is prevention.
Avoid the things that have been scientifically proven to put you at a high risk for dental disease and do the things that are good for your teeth.
Regular visits to your dentist (meaning twice a year), brushing twice a day and flossing every day will ensure that your athletic performance is not hindered by poor oral health.
This might seem like blatant advertising but if it has been more than 6 months since your last dental visit, call Dr. Marchbanks the Wheelbrothers team Dentist in Arlington, Texas. As an athlete himself, he will consult with you so your dental health is in tip top shape for optimal sports performance. Oh yeah… his number is (817)261-2747