Is Too Much Sport and Exercise Giving You Gum Disease?

The number of people exercising to stay healthy is at an all time high. And the health industry is at its peak because everybody knows sport and exercise is a major component in avoiding disease and leading a healthy lifestyle. However, is there a darker side to all that exercise that the health industry and the exercise professionals are not telling you about?  Exercise may be good for your bones but what about your teeth? Could all that exercise really be bad for you teeth? What if too much sport was actually giving you gum disease?  Researchers have found a distinct correlation between the consumption of sports and energy drinks and an increase in gum disease, particularly amongst the teenage population.

A recent study found that young adults take energy drinks thinking “it improves their performance and energy levels”. However, what these young adults fail to realise is that sports and energy drinks are very acidic in nature, which causes tooth enamel to erode. A recent study shows that damage to enamel was evident after only five days of exposure to sports or energy drinks. This can lead to irreversible tooth problems and later to gum disease as a result of these drinks “essentially bathing their teeth with acid”.  However, researchers were quick to point out there is an important distinction here between “sports drinks” and “energy drinks”. In the research conducted, energy drinks showed a significantly greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks. In fact, the authors of the study, which appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry found that energy drinks caused twice as much damage to teeth as sports drinks.

As is well known, damage to your tooth’s enamel is irreversible, leaving your teeth far more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease and periodontitis. Early signs of gum disease include soreness, swelling and bleeding when you clean your teeth. And one of the main causes of gum disease is build-up of plaque on the teeth. Drinking sports and energy drinks on a regular basis leaves many regular exercisers open to needing increased dental care and gum disease treatment as a result of the plaque which builds up very quickly from the excess acidity and sugar in these drinks.

Of course, you don’t need to only go to a dentist to prevent gum disease. Preventative dentistry should be a part of your everyday mouthcare. Preventative dentistry is simply a way of caring for one’s teeth to keep them healthy and avoid enamel wear, gum disease, cavities and other teeth-related problems. Two of the best preventive dentistry measures are to brush your teeth daily and have regular dental checkups. In addition, flossing and special little brushes for cleaning in between your teeth are are recommended to clean the tight spaces in between teeth. Regular dental check up may help identify and prevent gum disease. These simple measures are essential because they will ensure your teeth remain healthy even as you grow older.
Keep in mind that you only grow your teeth twice in a lifetime, once when you are a baby and the other when those baby teeth fall out and your adult teeth develop. Nothing else comes after that. Therefore good preventative dentistry is essential as, when it comes to your teeth, it is less a case of ‘prevention is better than cure’ and more a case of ‘prevention is the only cure!’
Lifestyle, age, diet, genetics as well as your daily activities can also affect your risk of gum disease. The best way to prevent gum disease is by following these preventive dentistry measures that you can easily do on your own.

So whilst exercise itself does not directly lead to gum disease, drinking too many sports drinks in the belief they will help performance, certainly can.  The truth is, unless you are an athlete in training, your body contains more than enough fuel to sustain a 90 minute workout, let alone the 45 minutes to an hour most people do.  The lesson here is to avoid drinking energy/sports drinks during an average workout, because they will not significantly enhance your performance or your bones, yet they will potentially rot your teeth. Despite what the marketing gurus would have you believe, water is the best fuel – for both your muscles and your teeth!
If you are in heavy training or need a performance boost, take an isotonic sports drinks or use water-mixed-with-sugar during training as this will give you the glycogen (muscle fuel) you need to sustain your performance, without the acid that damages your teeth.

Dr Galgut specialises in preventative dentistry and gum disease treatment at his practice in North London. If you want to know more about how to prevent gum disease or wish to discuss gum disease treatment options, please contact him here:

Peter Galgut

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