Exercise healthy, take care of your mouth!

Sport and oral health – Exercise healthy, take care of your mouth!

Exercise healthy, take care of your mouth!

Sport at the highest level demands a lot from your body and proper care of it is essential. Part of that care is good tooth and molar health.

intensive sport may pose a risk to the health of teeth in many ways. Poor oral health can cause acute or long-term problems. In addition, it can have a negative impact on sports performance or even impede the practice of sports.

With this information, we would like to raise awareness of the risk factors for oral health in top-class sport. In this way we hope to generate more attention for good oral health in combination with top sport and to contribute to sports performance that does not suffer from possible dental problems.
Below is a summary of the possible problems.

Dental erosion and / or wear 

Causes can be:
1. Sports drinks
Most sports drinks contain citric acid and therefore have a high acidity. These acidic drinks can dissolve enamel (erosion). 
2.   Dry mouth
Intensive exercise can make the mouth drier. Saliva is the first line of defense in the mouth against damage caused by acids and sugars. 
The absence of saliva can therefore lead to erosion and holes. 
3. Heartburn
During exercise, stomach acid can rise and end up in the mouth (reflux). The feeling of heartburn does not even have to be noticed. This too can cause an increase in erosion of teeth and molars.
4. Clamping / grinding
The frequent mounting and shifting of especially the molars (clamps or grinding) also causes more wear. The literal ‘putting the teeth together’ is usually an unconscious attitude and is very difficult to undo. It can occur with weightlifting or other strength sports.
In contact sports, clamping is a natural defensive attitude when expecting an impact. The chewing muscles together with the neck muscles form a block, which reduces the risk of, for example, concussion. This position is even recommended for rugby.
This clamping can cause greater wear if the teeth and molars are not correctly aligned. Erosion can speed up this wear process. If the wear is rapid, this can cause sensitive teeth and opt for cold and warm. But often this is a process of years and hardly noticeable.
5. Swimming pool water
There may be another risk lurking with swimmers. The bath water can have a high acidity, which can cause erosive wear, especially at the front of the front teeth. Most swimming pools in the Netherlands are well controlled, but bathing abroad can be very ‘acidic’.
6. Eating disorder
A final problem that can cause erosion of the teeth is frequent vomiting. This can occur with an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. Unfortunately, this often occurs with sports that require low body weight.


Possible causes: sports nutrition and sports drinks. 
The diet before, during or after an activity is often rich in sugar and carbohydrates. This increases the risk of cavities. Certainly again if there is a dry (er) mouth. 


Especially in contact sports, such as rugby or football, teeth and molars can be damaged or even come loose completely. Sports that are likely to cause serious damage as a result of a fall are also notorious for this. Sports such as cycling, mountain biking but also skiing, skating or snowboarding. Wearing a mouth guard can in any case reduce the damage caused by such an accident. In the case of hockey, a mouth guard has even been mandatory since 2015. 


Long-term and intensive exercise can cause problems earlier. A decrease in resistance can cause pain from already present dormant inflammation or new inflammation.  

Long and short term consequences

As indicated above, problems can therefore arise immediately. But the problems can only manifest themselves in the long term, such as wear and tear. This can become clearly visible or cause problems later in life, after the sport career. The process has already begun during the sports career. Treating this wear can be a lot more difficult. Prevention is better than cure. To prevent problems, correct information can prevent many potential damage.

An example of this is that for sports that last no longer than an hour, the carbohydrates and the moisture can already be kept at the right level by a banana and water. Sports drink appears to have no added value whatsoever. If sports drinks still have to be used, the manner of incorporation is important. Small sips and rinsing with these acidic drinks has more harmful effects than drinking a lot at once. The moment is also important. Drink, if possible, when there is enough saliva again.

In addition to information, regular screening for risk factors and potential damage is important both for the medical health of athletes and for performance.

Oral screening
This screening is for performing a risk analysis of the teeth in addition to oral health. Hereby all aspects that may play a role in the occurrence of damage to the teeth are included: clamps / grinding, position of the teeth, bacterial activity, gum health, location of the wisdom teeth, nutrition, etc.

This screening therefore goes further than the regular check-up with your own dentist in several respects. You receive a total overview of the teeth and the possible risk factors. This may result in a preventive plan or, if necessary, a dental care plan.

Mapping the possible individual risks is in any case the first but also the most important step that can be taken to prevent future dental problems and to continue to perform at a high level!

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