How’s that resolution to live a more active lifestyle going? Kept your promise to increase exercise levels or play more sports in 2023?
If you have, great! But whilst trying out new sports and upping activity levels is brilliant news for your physical and mental well-being, have you thought about the effect it could have on your oral health?
We didn’t think so.
And unfortunately, it’s not good news.
Research conducted by Podium Analytics – a charity committed to reducing injury in sports – has revealed that 40% of people questioned said they had sustained a sporting injury at some point in their life. Of these, a shocking 34% still experience consequences from the damage.
One of the most vulnerable areas is our smile. In the US alone, more than 5 million teeth are knocked out each year during sports activities. Which is why knowing how to best protect your smile during physical activities is essential.
The trick is not to panic – and definitely don’t stop working out! Just take a moment to understand how you can minimise the risk of sports dental injuries, so you can enjoy exercise – without putting your smile in jeopardy.
How sports can damage teeth
Increased chance of harm
Unfortunately, dental injuries in sport are very common. The biggie here is the increased risk of having a tooth (or several!) knocked out.
The mouth is a delicate area, and it doesn’t take much more than a hard blow – perhaps from a rogue ball or opponent’s defending limb – to leave you minus a few teeth.
And it’s not just losing a tooth that’s the problem. Chips and cracks are also common sporting injuries, not to mention soft tissue damage to gums, lips and tongues.
Think it’s only team sports that are a problem? Not so. Even going solo carries its risks. Cycling, skiing, running – yikes, even power walking – can all pose a threat with an increased chance of a slip or fall.
Even swimming is problematic. If the chlorine level isn’t spot on, the overly-acidic water can trigger a condition known as ‘swimmers calculus’. This causes hard brown stains to develop, typically on the front teeth.
A dry mouth
Panting, out of breath, breathing through your mouth? All signs that you’re putting the effort in, but they can also wreak havoc with your teeth!
Reduced saliva production and a build-up of dried salvia in the mouth, create prime conditions for bacteria growth and increase the risk of tooth decay.
A sports drink may offer the electrolytes your body craves during exercise but they’re bad news for teeth.
In a shocking study published by the General Dentistry Journal, it was found that energy and sports drinks can start damaging teeth after just 5 days of drinking. Eroding enamel and resulting in teeth becoming over sensitive to changes in temperature and more susceptible to decay.
Eating a higher-calorie diet
It’s not just fluid intake you need to worry about – it’s your solid diet too.
Exercise burns calories. The more active you are, the more calories your body will need to sustain the physical activity. This is why we’re naturally drawn to calorie-laden food after a workout. Problem is, even a relatively innocent looking protein bar is overloaded with sugar. And without proper care, these increased sugar levels in your diet as you ‘reward’ your workout, will negatively impact the condition of your teeth.
How to protect your smile in sport
Stick to drinking water
Water is the hero of any healthy diet. So, tempting as it may be to switch to ‘sports’ drinks that promise everything your body needs when exercising, try to stick to simple H20.
Not only will this protect your mouth from raised sugar levels, but it will also keep you hydrated and help to swill away any dried salvia from your mouth.
Brush more frequently
Up early for a morning jog? Don’t let the change in routine throw you off your usual brushing habits.
Stick to cleaning teeth at least twice a day – first things in the morning and last thing at night. This is essential to keep teeth clean and healthy. Neglect to brush your teeth pre-morning workout and you’ll already have elevated levels of bacteria present in your mouth – and that’s before you even start getting out of breath!
If you do indulge in post-workout treats (and who would blame you?!) then try to brush your teeth again once you’ve finished. If that’s not possible, swill your mouth with water or chew a piece of sugar-free gum to counter the sugar and rid your mouth of any food debris that could encourage decay.
Contact sports such as rugby, football and hockey are the obvious choice for wearing protection to avoid dental injuries but there are many ‘non-contact’ sports where helmets, mouthguards or gum shields are also advisable – such as cricket or tennis.
Truth is, during any activity where there’s an increased chance of teeth being knocked or damaged, it’s worthwhile investing in proper protection.
It’s never too late
If you’re already suffering from sports dental injuries, it’s never too late to put things right.
A missing tooth from an overzealous hockey game back in your youth. Chipped or cracked teeth from a recent fall from your bike. Even stains and yellowing due to a penchant for post-match team curries – we can help with them all.
With a great range of cosmetic dental procedures available here at the Harley Street Smile Clinic, perfecting and restoring smiles is what we do best.
For a free e-consultation, simply send in a close-up photograph of your teeth, with details of what it is you’d like to change, and we’ll get back to you with information about suitable treatment options.