A recent study looking at the effect of prolonged endurance training suggests that such training may be a contributing risk factor for poor oral health.

Dr. Ian Sweeney

Dentists have known for a long time that dehydration caused by sports training, in combination with acidic sports drinks, may result in quite severe erosion of teeth. Dental erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acid.

The study compared the oral health of 35 triathletes, training on average nine hours per week, with 35 non-athletes. In general, the athletes displayed more areas of erosion of their tooth enamel as well as more dental cavities. The amount of erosion and dental cavities identified was proportional to the number of hours the athletes spent training.

The study showed that during periods of prolonged exercise, the amount of saliva produced reduced, regardless of water consumption at the time. Not only was there a reduction in the volume of saliva produced, analysis of the saliva showed the composition of the saliva also changed in chemical composition.

Another study published following the 2012 Olympics showed 55% of the surveyed athletes had tooth decay. Decay occurs when sugar reacts with bacteria in the mouth to produce acid. The acid produced demineralises the tooth enamel, forming a cavity. Saliva acts as a natural buffer to the acid we consume as well as acid produced by bacteria in our mouths.The same study showed that 75% of athletes had gingivitis while 15% were suffering from chronic irreversible periodontal disease.

Athletes often use a high carbohydrate diet, including sports drinks and sports bars during training. These have the ability to lower the pH in the mouth into the acidic range causing dental erosion and decay. Damage caused by erosion and decay may require extensive dental rehabilitation to restore normal tooth function and aesthetics.

Preventive measures and early diagnosis by your dentist will, as always, help to minimise damage of dental disease.

For further information or advice contact Northside Dental on 02 9144 4522, or visit www.northsidedental.com.au