Health Habits that are Detrimental to Your Mouth
When it comes to your oral health, issues such as tooth decay can tie back to lifestyle factors and habits we never even think about. Even if you consider yourself to be a fairly fit and healthy person, dental symptoms could flare up because of overall habits we stick to every day.
Staying Hydrated with Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are great for combatting dehydration during extremely hot days and extensive exercise. But for the most of us, we’re getting mild to moderate workouts in where we aren’t at risk of fighting dehydration or requiring an immediate electrolyte intake. When you’re consuming a frequent intake of sports drinks—all of which contain sugar—you are coating your teeth with cavity-causing acids. If you’re drinking it a few times a week instead of once a month, the effects will eventually add up. It’s true: sports drinks tend to be worse on your tooth enamel than most soda.
Generally speaking, the best thing to stay hydrated with is water. Especially fluoridated tap water because of its regulated mineral levels. It’s safe on teeth and helps flush away bacteria.
Drinking Lemon Water
Water with lemon is one of those subtle things some of us do without giving a lot of thought to it. But lemon is highly acidic and can gradually erode your tooth enamel. That’s why it’s actually used as a preventative for people with issues such as kidney stones.
If you do drink lemon water—especially under the advice of your doctor—make sure you’re rinsing your mouth out with plain water afterward. Keeping a reusable straw on hand can also help you limit the amount of acid exposure on your teeth.
The Fuel During Your Long Run, Bike, etc.
A lot of endurance athletes have gels, liquid nutrition, and other sticky types of fuel they carry on them for ultra-long workouts. Like trail running or a century ride. Your body definitely needs those calories to keep up performance for extended periods of time, but the fuel you’re using may be “bad” for your teeth.
Now, endurance athletes spend a lot of time researching the best fuels to keep them at optimal performance. We’re not saying you have to stop using them. But what you do want to do is make sure you counteract any damage that the fuel might cause. For instance, rinse your mouth out really well with water after you eat something gooey. Brush your teeth with prescription fluoride at night before you go to bed (to remineralize weak enamel). Make sure you stay up to date on your dental exams and X-rays to pinpoint issues while they’re as small as possible. Even if you’re extremely healthy overall, your fueling strategy can unfortunately place you at a significantly higher risk of tooth decay.
Clenching Your Teeth Away
Teeth clenching and grinding is often an oral health side effect of stress and focus: something that a lot of athletes and self-motivated people definitely experience. Wearing a protective mouthguard during your activity (maybe it’s weightlifting) or while you sleep (when you focus on rest) can help you avoid dental symptoms of pain, TMJ disorder, chipped teeth, etc. Just be sure to wear a professionally fitted mouthguard and not one that you get over the counter. Custom appliances are more comfortable and offer better protection.
And speaking of mouthguards: make sure you’re wearing one during your workouts. They don’t just protect your teeth; they can also lower your chances of a concussion.
Breathing is crucial to a great workout. It impacts your blood pressure, keeps you in the right training zone, and helps you perform at your best. But sometimes that means breathing through your mouth. It might not even be an option not to. Perhaps you have to take deep breaths in or only breath through your mouth depending on what you’re doing. All of that mouth breathing can dry out your oral tissues. And when saliva flow cuts down, tooth decay goes up.
Stay hydrated when you can, limit mouth breathing when possible, and rinse with water as often as you get a chance.
Time in the Pool
Speaking of mouth breathing, one of the most common dental symptoms we see in lap swimmers is tooth stain! It turns out that some swimmers—recreational or competitive—tend to get stain deposits on their enamel after several weeks in the swimming pool. It’s thought to be from the chlorinated water washing over their teeth when they open their mouths.
Regular toothbrushing, rinsing with tap water, and professional cleanings can help you reduce or eliminate tooth stain over time.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Or overall and oral health are a fine, intertwined balance. When dental symptoms start to pick up, look at what type of circumstances your teeth are exposed to each day. As long as you’re getting plenty of water, practicing good oral hygiene, and scheduling six-month checkups, you’re on the right track!
Reserve your next exam with our Newport Beach dentist, today!
About Dr. Yazdan
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