Studies have indicated that athletes tend to have frequent problems with their oral health, though the reasons for this are unclear. Experts believe the problem may be due to diet, mouth injuries or a combination of factors. Most athletes are aware of the potential for damage to their teeth and mouths, and they wear mouthguards. In some sports organizations mouthguards are required. While mouthguards offer great protection against injury, problems with dental health may be caused by activity on or off the playing field. Athletes should be aware of some unexpected oral health problems that sports and exercise can cause.
Dry mouth is a common problem that people encounter when exercising or participating in sports. Saliva serves a dual purpose; it not only keeps our mouths moist, but it also washes away food particles that get left on our teeth and reduces acid buildup from foods. A lack of saliva can be uncomfortable, cause bad breath, and reduce the effectiveness of the natural bacteria-fighting process. It is important to keep saliva production at normal levels to work against bacteria and gum disease.
Most athletes combat dry mouth and dehydration by drinking water or sports drinks. Sports drinks are popular because of their flavors and because they claim to be better than water for replacing electrolytes and increasing energy. The problem with sports drinks is that they usually contain sugar, which causes trouble for the teeth. Water can replace fluid in the body without sugar, and it can keep the mouth moist and help to wash away bacteria and acids. If you must drink sport drinks, rinsing with water after drinking a sports drink can help remove some of the extra sugar. You can also chew sugar-free gum after meals or during rest periods in training to increase saliva production.
Athletes who experience oral health issues that lead to toothache or mouth pain may find the pain to be interfering with their rest, which can affect athletic performance. Most athletes are well-prepared to deal with the muscle aches and pains that are part of athletic life, but being prepared for mouth pain by wearing a mouthguard during all physical activity and practicing good oral hygiene is equally important.