At Dr. Carr Orthodontics, we know that for a lot of our patients after school athletics like soccer, football, softball and cheerleading play a big role in their daily lives. While these types of extracurricular activities offer a number of wonderful benefits, they can also pose a risk to kids’ oral health, especially those who wear braces.
Patients who wear braces need to take special precautions when it comes to their oral health. To ensure their orthodontic treatment finishes successfully and on time, every one of Dr. Carr’s patients need to brush and floss daily to ensure their oral health remains at its best.
Playing sports places a lot of demands on our bodies. While most of the impact of running, weightlifting or physical contact on the football or soccer field will be felt in the muscles and joints, working out and playing sports also takes its toll on our oral health. For patients wearing braces, this additional strain could damage their oral health and slow down their orthodontic treatment.
So that you can better protect your oral health and orthodontic appliance, here’s what you need to know about sports and your oral health.
Beware the Dangers of Dry Mouth
For even the most dedicated of athletes, heavy physical exertion leads to a lot of mouth breathing that results in dry mouth and a reduced saliva flow.
Saliva acts as our body’s natural defense mechanism against harmful oral bacteria that grows in the mouth. When saliva flows normally, it works to flush harmful bacteria and food particles that linger in the mouth after eating away from the surface of our teeth and gums. When saliva flow drops, as what occurs when our mouths become dry, these harmful substances are allowed to remain, increasing our risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
The impact dry mouth has on the oral health of athletes is well documented. A 2014 study that examined the oral health of triathletes found that the athletes showed significantly more tooth decay and enamel erosion when compared to non-athletes. Not only did the athletes produce lower levels of saliva when compared to the non-athletes, they also exhibited higher pH levels in the mouth. When the pH level of the mouth becomes high, the mouth becomes more acidic, which makes it easier for harmful bacteria to damage tooth enamel.
Dry mouth becomes an even bigger problem when combined with another common habit many athletes give little thought.
Stop Sipping on Sports Drinks
Taking small sips of sports drink or bites of energy bars while training or working out may help to combat dehydration and muscle fatigue, but the habit can also negatively impact your teeth. The more sugar we consume the more acid harmful bacteria like plaque produces, which threatens the long-term health of our teeth. Most sports drinks also contain citric and phosphoric acid, which further contribute to enamel erosion.
Unfortunately, most student athletes don’t think about how much sugar each bottle of Gatorade or Powerade contains when trying to rehydrate after a hard workout or practice. When combined with dry mouth, adding extra sugar to the mouth becomes the perfect recipe for the development of tooth decay.
Patients of Dr. Carr already know of the importance of maintaining a balanced diet, and the need to reduce sugar consumption. Protecting your oral health becomes even more important when wearing braces, as tooth decay and gum disease can seriously undermine the success of your treatment.
Fortunately, student athletes can give it their all while still protecting their oral health.
Protecting Your Oral Health
The easiest way for athletes to help protect their oral health is by cutting back on the amount of sports drinks they consume after a workout or during a game. While Gatorade may contain some number of minerals and nutrients the body needs, you can replace 90% of what the beverage offers by simply drinking water.
Dehydration ranks as one of the biggest hurdles an athlete needs to overcome in order to stay on the field, and nothing hydrates better than plain old water. If you feel compelled to drink Gatorade or Powerade, make sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterward. Not only will this help to prevent dry mouth, it will also rinse the sugars in sports drinks from your mouth while also helping to restore the pH balance.
If you have any questions about the best ways to maintain your oral health while playing sports, make sure to ask Dr. Carr during your next appointment.