Energy and sports drinks have become quite popular among teenagers and athletes in the last decade or so. While they are being consumed in large quantities do we know the effect tey may have on our dental health? Well recent research out of Britain may have the answer for us.
Dental Health Study Of Elite Athletes + Energy Drinks
In a recent study, published in the British Dental Journal, it was found that elite athletes tend to have higher rates of dental disease (including periodontal disease and tooth decay). This finding is quite surprising because the researchers also found that these same athletes brush and floss their teeth more often than the average person.
The research included a survey of 352 Olympic and professional athletes across 11 sports (These included cycling, swimming, rugby, football, rowing, hockey, and sailing). The athletes were given thorough dental examinations for male and female athletes measuring 3 dental health factors: tooth decay, periodontal health and tooth enamel erosion. The research team also noted what the athletes did to try to keep their mouth, teeth and gums healthy.
These dental examinations revealed surprising results. They found substantial amounts of dental and oral disease. They found that almost half (49.1%) of the elite athletes had untreated tooth decay, a large majority showed early signs of periodontal disease (gingivitis), and about a third (32%) reported that their oral health had a negative impact on their athletic training and performance.
These findings were quite surprising as the research team also showed that these athletes were making valid attempts to aintain dental health. This study found that 94% of the elite athletes reported brushing their teeth at least 2x a day, and 44% reported regularly flossing their teeth. When compared with the general population these numbers are much higher. The general population brushes 2x per day at about a 75% rate while only 21% floss regularly. So the elite athletes were making an honest and diligent attempt to maintain their smiles.
The survey however did find that the elite athletes are regular users of sports drinks (87%), energy bars (59%) and energy gels (70%), which have been shown in prior research studies to damage teeth and periodontal tissues.
“We found that a majority of the athletes in our survey already have good oral health related habits in as much as they brush their teeth twice a day, visit the dentist regularly, don’t smoke and have a healthy general diet,” said researcher Dr Julie Gallagher (UCL Eastman Dental Institute Centre for Oral Health and Performance).
“However, they use sports drinks, energy gels and bars frequently during training and competition; the sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and the acidity of them increases the risk of tooth enamel erosion. This could be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay and acid erosion we saw during the dental check-ups.”
As for hope for the future, the surveyed athletes almost unanimously said they would consider adopting even better oral hygiene habits to tackle this and a future research study has already begun.
Dental Hygiene Checklist
–Brush, Floss, Rinse Daily. Brushing at least 2 times per day for a minimum of 2 minutes each time added with flossing at least one time per day and rinsing with an antibacterial or fluoride rinse will be a great foundation to a healthy smile.
–Avoid Sugary Foods And Drinks (including energy and sports drinks). Foods and drinks high in sugar give the bacteria in the mouth the nutrition it needs to create an acidic environment inside your mouth and can lead to increased incidence of tooth decay.
–Consume Plenty Of Vitamin C. A diet deficient in vitamin C can lead to oral health issues. This can include loose teeth and bleeding or inflamed gum tissues. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits. Important to note that citrus fruits are highly acidic so you should rinse your mouth with water following to neutralize the acids so as not to harm your teeth.
–Select Crunchy Foods. While not a replacement for dental floss, eating hard, crunchy raw foods (like carrots, celery, nuts, and apples) can naturally clean your teeth as well as freshen your breath.
–Get Your Daily Amount Of Calcium. This will not only keep your teeth strong but also the bones in your body to keep going thru sporting events. Good sources of Calcium include milk, cheese, and soybeans. Also, ensure you get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium properly. A good source of vitamin D is from the sun. So get outside and exercise harder!
–Drink Lots Of Water. Drinking water throughout the day will keep your teeth and body healthy and hydrated. Water is far better for you than any other beverage you can drink. Rinsing after every meal or snack with water will help maintain your dental health. The water can neutralize the acids being produced by the oral bacteria. This will in turn limit the amount of tooth decay that can occur.
–Routine Dental Examinations. Seems like an easy one but often neglected as we get busy. It is important to not only get your teeth professionally cleaned but also to diagnose and repair any problems while in their earliest stages.
Dental Health Conclusion
This study shines a light on the dangers of energy and sport drinks. If an elite athlete is feeling the effects the general population would be hit even harder. If you are going to partake in these beverages follow up with good dental hygiene to keep your smile happy and healthy.