When you're playing sports or exercising, your dental health may not be the first concern that comes to mind but it's definitely something that deserves extra consideration.
Being an athlete of any kind requires dedication to training, eating well, meeting nutritional goals, and staying hydrated, all aimed to achieve success and performance. Taking care of your oral health and hygiene rolls right into those goals and reaching peak performance in all areas. Since your your mouth impacts your digestive health which is a major aspect of maintaining a healthy body - you can't leave it out! We've compiled some of the best ways athletes can protect their teeth and support their oral health and hygiene on and off the court/track/field, etc.
Your Mouth Guard Is Part Of The Uniform
If you haven't already cozied up to your main shield against dental damage, then now is the time. Mouth guard use has been shown to reduce the risk of sport-related dental injuries. There are a few different types of mouth guards that we'll detail below that offer different benefits but their main function is to protect those pearly whites. They may seem uncomfortable or unnatural at first but wearing a mouth guard regularly becomes second nature. It does not matter what type of mouth guard you choose, just make sure it fits properly.
Don't Go For Sugar On The Side Lines
If you're often reaching for a sugar-loaded liquid to quench your thirst during break time, try switching to water instead. Sugar is known to put us at a higher risk for developing cavities. The bacteria in your mouth uses the sugar from the sports drink to produce an acid that weakens the hard outer shell of your teeth which also increases your risk for cavities over time. Utilizing high protein drinks or water instead of sugary options can help your dental health all around.
Dental erosion occurs when the hard, outer covering of teeth (tooth enamel) weakens exposing the softer, underlying tooth material (dentine) to abrasion. Recent reviews of dental health in elite athletes showed that they are at higher risk of dental caries and erosion. In some cases, the increased rate of erosion has been linked to consumption of sports products, including sports drinks, workout supplements and carbohydrate gels. Although these products can positively impact performance they need to be used carefully or you may be forced to forgo your smile, that and your poor dental health could impact your more heavily further down the line.
Rinse, Floss, Repeat - Like The Rest Of Us
Athletes are already masters of routines and dedication to those routines and that shouldn't diminish with oral health. Brush easy and keep your smile strong by brushing twice a day for at least two minutes and flossing once a day. Then, in the home stretch of your daily dental routine, use a fluoride-free mouthwash!
Types Of Mouth Guards
The most common and least expensive option of mouth guard, available in retail stores like department and sporting goods stores. This doesn't require a visit to the dentist, this is because it's only available in a limited variety of sizes and requires the mouth be shut to keep it in place. It is not adaptable to the user mouth.
Mouth-formed (boil and bite)
These are self-adapting mouth guards that are made to soften when placed in hot or boiling water, then cooled and placed in the mouth to form to the gums and teeth. The user gentle bites down, and this pressure and manipulation by the tongue and fingers helps mold it to the shape of the users mouth. Although not needed, a dental professional can provide assistance with the final molding, especially if the user has orthodontic installments. These are widely available at sporting good store.
Custom mouth guards are made in a dental office or lab from individual patient impressions taken by a dental professional. They offer the best possible fit, adaptability, and efficacy. Because of this, they are easily the most pricey option and do require dental visits.