Dental Hygienists Offer Health Tips For Weekend Warriors, Fitness Buffs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Weekend warriors and other fitness buffs take note: your need to pay as much attention to your oral health as your cardio and muscle-building regimens.

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"People today are concerned about their total health, weight issues and being healthy, yet they forget to protect their teeth and the health of their mouth," said Jean Honny, president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA). "Exercise and diet indeed affect total health."

According to CDHA, many health-conscious Californians are unaware of the oral health dangers from the sports drinks, gels and special diets they consume during races and various sporting activities.

"Dental hygienists have received substantial education in nutrition," Honny said. "Every day we see the adverse effects of carbohydrates and sugars in a person's diet that can increase their risk of dental decay."

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Distance runners, cyclists, tri-athletes and other serious athletes often experience "cotton mouth," which reduces saliva from increased air intake. This can lead to dental decay since saliva acts as a protective coating for our teeth against the acid in our mouths.

This problem is compounded when these athletes consume high amounts of carbohydrates; the breakdown of carbohydrates leads to higher acidity in the mouth. Additionally, many drinks and sports gels athletes consume during races are very high in sugar, which also contributes to dental decay.

To combat these problems, CDHA offers the following tips:

  1. Use xylitol-containing products such as chewing gum between workouts and meals to generate re-mineralization of teeth
  2. There are some sports drinks companies starting to use xylitol as a sweetener, use them if you can find them
  3. Carry a bottle of water or cup of ice while racing or working out to rinse the mouth after you consume a gel, drink, or bar. This also helps relieve dry mouth
  4. Use an appropriate fluoride rinse and toothpaste that contains fluoride
  5. Brushing teeth well for at least two minutes and flossing daily are your best defense against dental decay
  6. Visit your dental hygienist at least once every six months

In addition these tips, even the most casual weekend warrior should invest in a plastic mouth guard.

"It's a small price to pay to protect your teeth," said CDHA's Honny, who cited a National Sports Foundation estimate that more than five million teeth are lost each year during sports activities. "In many cases, the athlete could have prevented the injury simply by wearing a mouth guard."

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