It’s National Bike Week, and that means it’s time to hit the streets (or the bike trail, if you prefer). At Victoria Dental, we’re also thinking about the implications of this week. Believe it or not, there is actually evidence to suggest that exercise has an effect on your dental and oral health.
Exercise and dental care might be the last two subjects you associate, but it’s true. Like many other aspects of health, taking care of your body and taking care of your teeth go hand in hand.
Lower Risk of Gum Disease
A study by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey came to a fascinating conclusion: people who exercise at least five times a week significantly cut back on their risk of developing gum disease. This is important since gum disease can lead to a huge number of other health problems. Untreated, it can lead to gingivitis, swelling and irritation, and pain. Severely advanced cases can even result in loss of teeth, cancer, heart disease, or stroke.
This is good news for athletes. A moderate workout (such as a bike ride) five days a week can lessen your risk of these health problems. Alternatively, a high-intensity workout three days a week has the same effect.
The Link Between BMI and Your Mouth
But that’s not the only effect that exercise has on your oral health. There is also evidence to show that your body mass index or BMI also impacts your teeth for better or for worse. Obesity gives rise to a host of health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. These, in turn, are known for their effect on the health of your teeth and gums.
Studies show that people with a normal BMI — especially those who exercise regularly and follow a proper diet — have a 40 percent reduced risk of developing periodontitis.
How to Protect Your Mouth While You Exercise
It’s great to exercise regularly. But there are also some ways that athletes’ oral health can suffer. This isn’t because of the exercise itself but rather because of habits connected with exercise. To protect your teeth while getting your workout in, there are a few simple steps you should follow.
Firstly, be mindful of the way you breathe while you work out. It can be tempting to try to breathe through your mouth as your heart rate accelerates, but this spells disaster for your teeth. Mouth breathing leads to a loss of saliva and a drier mouth. This is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which results in tooth decay. Make sure to breathe through your nose and hydrate as much as possible.
You should also be cautious about drinking sports drinks like Gatorade. These may be a good choice to hydrate and replenish electrolytes, but they’re also extremely high in sugar. Try to find a balance between getting the nutrients you need and protecting your teeth from sugary drinks. Some sugar is important after working out, but it is possible to overdo it.