How Does Exercise Affect Your Smile? | Asheville Dental | Saunders DDS
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    How Does Exercise Affect Your Smile?

    by Saunders DDS on November 9, 2016

    We all know that exercise can do wonders for our bodies. From helping us stay at a healthy weight to promoting heart health and reducing our risk of chronic disease, exercise has all around been promoted as a good thing. If exercise is great for your body, then surely it must be just as great for your smile?

    Not so fast. Although oral health has been linked to heart health, the dental health of athletes has been examined with less-than-perfect results. Although exercise certainly has some benefits for your smile, people who regularly exercise are also at risk for some dental health issues that shouldn’t be ignored.

    How does exercising affect your teeth and gums?

    Lower Risk of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

    Athletes and people who exercise regularly tend to have a lower risk of periodontal disease, according to research. In fact, people who participate in regular physical activity are 50% less likely to get gum disease! This statistic does not apply to smokers, who experience an increased risk of gum disease regardless of whether or not they exercise.

    Research also shows that people who have a lower body mass index (BMI) have a “significantly lower risk” of getting gum disease. This means that people who have an overall lower percentage of body fat are less at risk for gum disease—and people who exercise tend to have a lower BMI than people who don’t!

    It’s always important to know the signs and symptoms of gum disease and see your Asheville dentist for treatment!

    Higher Risk of Teeth Grinding

    One of the negative side effects of exercising is that you tend to grind your teeth more than a person who doesn’t work out. Although exercising is a great method to relieve stress, athletes also tend to grind their teeth during intense exercises.

    The condition of teeth grinding, called bruxism, is highly damaging to your smile. Not only can teeth grinding crack or chip teeth, but it can also wear away your enamel and lead to a higher risk for cavities and tooth sensitivity. Over time, you could even lose your teeth!

    A custom mouthguard can help prevent teeth grinding and protect your smile if you’re doing it during certain exercises. 

    Dry Mouth from Mouth Breathing

    When you exercise, are you breathing through your mouth or through your nose?

    People who exercise—especially during cardio exercises such as running—tend to breathe through their mouth. This effectively dries out the mouth and leaves your teeth unprotected from bacteria and enamel erosion. In fact, research shows that saliva decreases during exercise while pH increases, making your mouth an ideal environmental for enamel erosion, which can lead to sensitive teeth and cavities!

    What can you do? Pay attention to whether or not you breathe through your mouth during exercise. If you do, do your best to make a habit of breathing through your nose. This may mean you have to lessen the intensity of your workout at first to get the proper amount of oxygen into your lungs. With practice, however, eliminating mouth breathing as part of your workout routine can save your smile!

    Sports Drinks and Energy Bars Can Damage Your Smile

    The sports drinks that athletes tend to sip on can be very damaging to teeth—they tend to be very acidic and have sugar and other additives such as artificial flavors and colorings that are also acidic to tooth enamel. Research has proved that athletes are more likely to experience cavities that can result from eroded enamel.

    Sports drinks are one of the worst drinks for your teeth. Some studies show that they even rank worse than soda or energy drinks when it comes to oral health damage! In addition, be choosy about which energy bars you eat after a workout. Many of these bars are loaded with sugar and are introduced to your mouth when saliva is reduced, therefore resulting in a perfect environment for poor bacteria and tooth decay.

    The acidity of sports drinks and the sugar from energy bars—combined with the reduced saliva and increased pH during workouts—can lead to cavities from enamel erosion!

    You can avoid enamel erosion by sipping on water during your workouts and choosing whole foods rather than energy bars. Often, drinks that claim to replenish electrolytes aren’t needed unless you do intense workouts. If this is the case, try coconut water or add slices of fresh fruit or a pinch of sea salt to your water—safer and healthier than sports drinks!

    Injuries from Sports Can Be Prevented

    In addition to being at risk for poor oral health based on habits such as mouth breathing, teeth grinding, and sipping on energy drinks, many athletes participate in sports which can injure their smiles! These sports include football, basketball, and even gymnastics and volleyball.

    These injuries to teeth and gums can be prevented with custom mouthguards. They fit your unique smile and provide superior protection to store-bought mouthguards that aren’t made for your teeth. These mouth protectors let you fully enjoy your sport and experience the benefits of exercise all while keeping your teeth safe from harm.

    The Bottom Line: Is Exercise Good or Bad for Your Teeth?

    Exercise is a great way to stay in shape, prevent sickness and disease, and relieve stress and eliminate toxins from the body through sweat. Although athletes tend to have poor oral health habits, such as missing their professional cleaning with their dentist in Asheville, you can make exercise a positive thing for your smile!

    You can do this by:

    • Being aware of bruxism. If you grind your teeth, stop. If you do it unconsciously during exercise, talk to your Asheville dentist about a custom mouthguard solution.
    • Breathing through your nose. Try to eliminate mouth breathing during exercise if possible. If not possible, sip water throughout your workout to replenish your saliva.
    • Be selective about food and drink. Sports drinks and energy bars can lead to an increased risk for cavities and enamel erosion!
    • Protect yourself. If you love sports, protect your smile. A custom mouthguard can prevent injury to teeth and gums and keep your smile safe.

    When practiced with good habits, exercise can help your entire body be healthy and lead to a lower risk of periodontal disease. Whether you love doing cardio, strength training, or yoga, you can still enjoy exercise most days of the week and take care of your teeth and gums. Always visit your Asheville dental practice for checkups—your dentist in Asheville can help you protect your smile and identify concerns before they become problems!

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