Exercise may rot teeth, says dental study

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02.-RunnersIn a world where nearly every human pursuit has been found to damage your health in some way, exercise has been given a free pass for its manifold benefits. Now research suggests that, for some, fitness may come at a price: tooth decay, says a report in The Times.

Dentists at Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany believe the very act of exercising could ruin your smile.

Their study indicates that the longer athletes train each week, the more likely they are to have tooth rot or fillings — and the further they run, the greater the danger.

In 2009 the International Olympic Committee discovered that a third of its athletes had suffered tooth erosion, and last year a survey of competitors at the 2012 Games in London found a fifth had oral health so bad it had spoiled their training.

Out of 278 athletes across 25 sports, more than three-quarters had gum disease, while around half had cavities and tooth erosion.

“Our data and other studies suggest that, for a similar age profile, the oral health of athletes is poor,” said Ian Needleman, professor of restorative dentistry at University College London, who led the research. “It’s quite striking.”

Quite what is to blame has been a conundrum for some years. The IOC report stated the dental erosion “may be an indicator of excessive use of sports beverages, which are acidic”. Professor Needleman agreed, suggesting much damage was due to athletes wolfing down sugary energy drinks.

The German team have a different theory. They recruited 15 triathletes and asked them to run around a 400m track at an increasingly fast pace until they were exhausted. Before, during and after the exercise the dentists took saliva samples from the athletes.

Writing in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, the dentists argued there was no association between sports drinks and tooth erosion. Instead, the longer the athletes exercised, the less saliva they produced and the more alkaline it became.

Alkaline saliva is thought by some dentists to foster the growth of plaque bacteria, which are the main agent of tooth decay. In other words, what is damaging the athletes’ teeth may not be a build-up of acid but the opposite.

The researchers also suggested that during intense exercise even drinking water could contribute to tooth erosion because running may reduce the level of an enamel-protecting protein found in saliva.

Examining the teeth of a broader sample of 35 triathletes and 35 non-athletes, they found that for every extra hour of training each week there was an increased risk of having fillings or decayed or missing teeth.

However, Cornelia Frese, who led the study, said: “The link between the hours of training (and decay) was not strong enough to imply causation. The subject population was too small to create evidentiary results.”

The researchers called on athletes to take more care over their dental hygiene, saying: “Additionally, there is a need for exercise-adjusted oral hygiene regimes and nutritional modifications in the field of sports dentistry.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Gentle enjoyable exercise is great for the body, but excess exercise does not equate to health.

    The superfit suffer from disease just like the rest of us, infact it’s well know they are more prone to breakdown with common ailments like colds and flu, . And yes there is no shortage of all the major ills such as cancer, depression etc. seen in the superfit.

    So possibly the deeper and broader message in this study may be revealing a link between the disregard of oneself – or abuse really… and increases in disease formation .

    Not limited to just self abuse from exercise but all forms of self abuse — we’ll, maybe even things as simple as a unkind thought.

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