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Runners at Greater Risk of Oral Health Issues

Jul 17, 2014

By Dean George

Runners can run, but they can’t hide from a recent study that showed that runners and triathletes engaged in weekly training may be at greater risk of tooth erosion and cavities than non-runners.


A team of German dental researchers, including one that is a marathoner herself, reported in a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports that what runners consume during training reduces the pH balance in their mouths to unhealthy levels.

“The triathletes’ high carbohydrates consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, can lower the mouth’s pH balance below the critical mark of 5.5,” said Cornelia Frese, whose husband was one of the triathletes participating in the study. “That can lead to dental erosion and caries.”

She also noted that because runners breathe through their mouths while working out, they also experience dry mouth when exercising. This means they produce less of the saliva that is a natural tooth protector.

The study divided participants into two groups: an athletic group and a control group. In the athletic group researchers monitored the dental health of 35 triathletes who trained in cycling, running and swimming almost 10 hours a week.  Both groups averaged 36 years of age, but the athletes weighed significantly less and were in better shape.

As previously reported in Dental Wire and Agent Straight-Talk, many of the foods and sugars we eat affect the pH levels in our mouth. Those pH levels can vary from 1-14, with the ideal level being 7.30 to 7.45.

Researchers reported that when runners began exercising, they produced less saliva and what saliva they did produce was acidic, driving the pH levels in their mouths below 7.  The longer they exercised the more acidic their saliva became. The saliva of the athletic group and the control group were similar before exercise.

Forty six percent of the athletes consumed sports drinks while training and 74% used gels or nutritional bars. “Based on these findings, it can be suggested the endurance training has detrimental effects on oral health,” the study said.

The German research study mirrors the results of a similar study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in September, 2013. In that study 55 percent of the 302 Olympians participating in the 2012 London Games had tooth decay, 45% showed signs of tooth enamel erosion and 15% had periodontitis.

Friese said that the research team is looking into the possibility of different products that can help athletes maintain their oral health while training, including special toothpastes and mouth rinses. “If we could find a superior product that athletes can apply before training, that would be the ideal prevention,” she said.

Sources: Newswire, runnersworld.com
Photo source: marylebonephysio.com


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