Sport drinks and supplements – makes us sitting ducks for dental decay.
Athletes using sports supplements instantly put themselves in the high risk zone for dental decay. As we rush out the door clutching our sports drink, have we stopped and given our teeth a thought? Probably not. Our teeth are taking a hammering. Do we need those sports drinks?
Every time we snack or sip on our sports drink we are feeding not only ourselves but the bacteria in our mouth. These bacteria produce acid which lowers the pH in our mouth and saliva. The drinks frequently also contain acid for flavouring adding to the acid problem. As our mouth becomes more acidic the mineral of our teeth begins to dissolve. Keep doing this and we begin to see small demineralised white patches develop on our teeth. Carry on and the white patches become holes and we need to head to the dentist for a fix up.
So how is it then that we don’t constantly get holes in our teeth with eating? Our body has a built in rescue measure – saliva. Saliva returns the lost minerals to our teeth following an acid attack. Antibacterial factors contained in the saliva help keep the plaque levels under control, but only to a certain level. Saliva also neutralizes the acid after eating. However, this takes around 2 hours to return to a level where further damage doesn’t occur.
Back to the latest training session and we are sipping away on our sports drink, finish the training and carry on home with our bottle continually sipping to prevent dehydration. Nice idea on the dehydration front, but horrible on the teeth front. Our teeth have now been exposed to large amounts of acid and sugar without giving our mouth a chance to recover. This becomes more of an issue in athletes who are also eating regularly for energy while training. So not only are we adding acid and sugar, but our saliva levels are also compromised due to being dehydrated, so it’s a double whammy for the teeth.
DO WE NEED SPORTS DRINKS?
If you are training for less than 1-1.5 hours, then no, you don’t need a sports drink. So swap the sports drink for just water and you will be doing yourself a huge favour. You also do not need a sports drink (or any flavoured drink) to just wander around with, sipping on it during the day. This results in a huge increase in tooth decay levels. If you feel you must have flavoured water then sit down, drink it and then move on. Don’t wander around sipping – you are constantly exposing yourself to increased acid levels.
If you are training for more than 60 minutes in a session, then yes, you should consider a sports drink. But how then do we protect our teeth now knowing the dangers of constant exposure to acid?
WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR TEETH WITH TRAINING
- Always brush and floss your teeth before exercising – this will remove the amount of plaque and bacteria present as a starting point.
- Drink and eat as instructed during the training session.
- Finish with a drink of plain water to rehydrate quickly and begin neutralising the acid level. Also think about a sugar free chewing gum to stimulate saliva flow.
- If you need to eat after training consider having a dairy product, in particular some cheese to help prevent tooth decay.
Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after exercising, the enamel is softer after the acid attack and brushing can remove small amounts of this softened enamel. Leave it for at least half an hour before brushing.
- Ensure you are brushing and flossing regularly – at least twice a day.
- Have regular dental check ups and hygiene appointments. With athletes being in the high risk group consider at least 6 monthly checks, unless advised by your dentist.
- Consider some products such as a Savacol mouthwash (no more than once weekly), a fluoride mouthwash (such as Colgate Neutrafluor) and a calcium product such as Tooth Mousse (available from dentists) to keep bacteria levels under control and add mineral to your teeth. Dentists can also make you a super thin customized mouth guard, which you load with the Tooth Mousse and wear after training.
Sports drinks and supplements are not necessary in our daily life – we survived without them previously. However, they are a recommended training tool. Remember to care for your teeth when using them, and keep that happy smile while training.