Long workouts could affect your teeth
VIGOROUS exercise is good for the whole body - except, perhaps, the teeth, according to a new study on athletes.
The study, published in The Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports, found that heavy training may contribute to dental problems in unexpected ways.
To better understand what is going on inside the mouths of athletes, researchers with the dental school at University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany and other institutions recruited 35 competitive triathletes and 35 age-and gender-matched healthy adults who were not athletes.
Fifteen of the athletes also completed an increasingly strenuous run of about 35 minutes on an outdoor track, during which their saliva was collected several times.
Then the researchers compared the groups' teeth and spit, which turned out to be different in telling ways.
Compared with the control group, the athletes showed significantly greater erosion of their tooth enamel. They also tended to have more cavities, with the risk increasing as an athlete's training time grew.
Overall, the more hours that an athlete spent working out, the more likely he was to have cavities.
The researchers found no correlation between consuming sports drinks or any other elements of the athletes' diets and their oral health.
But during their experimental runs, the amount of saliva that athletes produced progressively lessened, regardless of whether they consumed water or other beverages during the workout.
Their saliva's chemical composition also became more alkaline. Excess alkalinity in saliva is thought to contribute to the development of tartar plaque on teeth and other problems.
Since saliva "has a very protective function" for teeth, having less of it or a chemically different version during exercise could be problematic, said Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg, who led the study.
But she warned that this study was small, short-term and in many ways unrepresentative of the oral risks most of us would likely face from exercise.
Based on the data from this group, she said: "All we can say is that prolonged endurance training might be a risk factor for oral health." Whether less frequent or intense exercise would likewise affect oral health is uncertain but unlikely, Dr Frese said.