Recent studies have shown that athletes and people engaging in regular physical activity are prone to getting cavities; putting their oral health at risk. An athlete's diet has been considered a major factor contributing to the negative impacts of their oral health. This can come as a surprise given the high levels of importance surrounding nutrition to fuel and  improve their athletic performance. Poor oral health has been linked to impacting training, overall athletic stability, appearance and confidence. Many challenges arise for active people including oral dehydration, exercise immune suppression, lack of prioritisation, nutritional consequences and lack of awareness. 

To understand the oral repercussions linking to this target audience’s eating habits and supplement intake, we must factor in their energy demands that are required. Naturally, people who are engaging in high and strenuous physical activity need a higher proportion of certain nutrients within their diet. However, if consumed excessively it can cause hazardous effects to your oral health. Carbohydrates are very common in an athletes diet as it’s used to store energy, build macromolecules, provide energy for working muscles and the central nervous system. Carb-heavy diets have been reported to provide a feasting ground for bacteria on your teeth enamel and causing cavities. Foods such as pasta, bread and potatoes can get stuck in the fissures in your teeth and the groves, turning into a sticky like consistency which hardens once the bacteria breaks down carbs into sugar. 

The recent popularity in aesthetic and fitness culture has opened up a market of a variety of pre and post-workout supplements that are consumed to increase energy levels, endurance and focus when training or in the gym. Erosion development is also noticeably common from the use of sports gels and lollies. These products are filled with large quantities of acid and sugar. Regular uses of gels and lollies have the potential to stick onto the enamel, leading to an increase in decay and erosion. Sports supplements, when consumed excessively put consumers at high risks of dental decay as they’re often rich in sugars, acidic fruit extracts, ascorbic acid and carbohydrates. Well known sports drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade are popular amongst most active individuals as they’re consumed to fuel the muscles, preserve glycogen and to extend physical endurance. These drinks are filled with sugar and citric acid that erode the enamel, making the teeth  more susceptible to the development of bacteria. Plaque, cavities and gingivitis are common results from the bacteria build up from the sugary liquid. 

Dehydration of the mouth during sporting activity from rapid breathing reduces saliva flow. Lack of protective properties of saliva creates a catalyst in bacteria growth. Following up with a sugary sports drink delivers enough sugar straight to the source for bacteria production and damages your teeth and immune system. 

Follow these tips to minimise dental problems that are affiliated with higher intensity and prolonged exercise. 

  1. When high quantities of carbohydrates are needed, bananas are a great source that won’t harm your teeth!
  2. Consuming foods that are rich in calcium such as milk, cheese and yoghurt will help remineralise the tooth surface that was eroded from acidic substances. 
  3. When preparing your pre or post workout supplement, increase your water to product ratio. Less water will increase the intensity of sugar and acid which will be more damaging to your teeth. 
  4. Stay hydrated as much as possible! Consuming water will not only help to keep your mouth hydrated, but it will also increase the production of saliva. Having a hydrated mouth will shield any bacteria formation on the enamel and will neutralize the ph acidity levels. 

If you have any concerns speak to your dentist about treatments, neutralising products or remineralising agents to help re-strengthen tooth surfaces and overall oral health.