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Study Shows Many Elite Athletes Do Not Excel at Oral Health

Elite athletes, even with the best daily oral hygiene routines, are experiencing increased oral health issues, according to research survey results of Olympic and professional athletes. Find out what is affecting their oral health and how you can prevent tooth decay and improve gum health while maintaining physical fitness.

Physical demands put on the body through training and competition can increase the risk of behavior associated with tooth decay and acid erosion. The UCL Eastman Dental Institute research team surveyed 352 Olympic and professional athletes across 11 sports, including cycling, swimming, rugby, football, rowing, hockey, sailing and athletics. Their findings, published in the British Dental Journal, show despite reporting positive oral health-related behaviors, athletes have substantial amounts of oral disease.

So why are athletes at the peak of optimal physical health, who don’t smoke and have healthy diets experiencing oral health issues? The study points to what is being ingested to stabilize energy levels and recover from endurance sports. During endurance activities, an athlete’s body can run short on its supply of glycogen, causing them to sweat water and minerals. Sports drinks, energy bars, gels and gummies can quickly convert glycogen into energy and replace electrolytes lost through sweat, but due to high sugar content, they are also the source of several oral health issues.

When athletes ingest sports drinks, energy bars, gummies and gels to fuel themselves for strenuous activity, they are also damaging their teeth and increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation. Almost one-third of athletes surveyed in the study (32%) reported their oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance. Adopting improved oral hygiene habits and substituting sports drinks and gooey energy supplements with healthy alternatives can improve oral health.

Whether you are an elite athlete, or an individual focused on physical fitness, it is important to adopt improved oral health habits. Set aside the sports drinks and hydrate with water or an electrolyte-filled alternative including coconut, aloe, cactus or watermelon water for physical recovery. Choose real food alternatives, including apples or almonds, instead of energy bars, gels and gummies to energize your workout. More importantly, pay attention to daily plaque removal by brushing twice daily and flossing the teeth, increase fluoride availability through mouth rinse and be sure to regularly schedule dental check-up and cleaning appointments to improve oral hygiene and health.

We’ll help you excel at oral health and keep your smile in great shape. Contact Three Rivers Dental Group today at 1-855-NO-FEARS or schedule an appointment on our website. We are conveniently located throughout the Pittsburgh area in Greentree, Cranberry, Greensburg and Jennerstown.