Athletes are known for their commitment and dedication to their sport, but this can come at a cost—especially regarding oral health. Many athletes have habits that can lead to poor oral hygiene and minor or major dental issues. Here are some of them.
Breathing Through the Mouth
As an athlete, you may find yourself breathing through your mouth due to panting or trying to catch your breath after a long run. This can dry out the mouth and cause saliva production to decrease, leading to bad breath and cavities. Loss of saliva also causes bacteria to multiply in the mouth and cause oral infections or decay. This leads to gum disease, broken teeth, and other serious oral issues such as receding gums or loss of jaw bone when it is not treated.
What You Can Do
To combat this problem, you must take regular breaks to catch your breath and drink plenty of water throughout the day. It would also help to use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce bacteria and freshen your breath. While in a game, you can also take quick breaks or drink small sips of water to help keep your mouth hydrated.
If you are playing contact sports, such as football or hockey, you may wear mouthguards to protect your teeth in case of a fall or collision. However, mouthguards tend to trap bacteria and can cause additional harm to the gums and jawbone if it does not fit properly. This is because bacteria can build up under the guard and lead to gum infections or cavities.
What You Can Do
To prevent this, you should have your mouthguard custom-fitted by a dentist. This will ensure that your mouthguard fits perfectly and does not trap bacteria. Wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard decreases the chances of sustaining injuries to your lips, tongue, face, cheeks, and jaw. Additionally, it provides cushioning for your teeth while covering the upper ones, reducing any potential damage like chipping or breaking teeth and nerve injury and loss of a tooth. It is also important to clean your mouthguard regularly with soap and water after each use. Mouthguards made of silicone are also recommended as they are less likely to trap bacteria.
Chewing gum is a popular pre-game ritual for many athletes as it gives you an extra energy boost on the field or court. Not only can chewing gum help keep your mouth moist, but it may also be useful in alleviating pre-game jitters and uneasiness. However, chewing sugar-filled gum can increase your risk of developing cavities and other oral health issues such as gum inflammation.
What You Can Do
It is important to choose sugar-free gum that does not contain harmful chemicals. These include aspartame or other artificial sweeteners, which can damage your enamel. Chewing gum with xylitol, a natural sweetener, can help reduce plaque and bacteria in the mouth. It is also best to stick to sugar-free gum with natural flavors such as peppermint or spearmint, which can also help freshen your breath.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
You may often need to eat a lot to fuel your body for long practice sessions and games. Unfortunately, you also find yourself reaching for unhealthy snacks such as candy bars or chips which can increase plaque buildup and cavities in the teeth. You may also be munching on too many protein bars, which are also filled with unhealthy sugars and additives. Eating too much sugar can cause tooth decay and acid reflux which can go into the mouth and cause enamel erosion.
What You Can Do
Instead of eating sugary snacks or processed foods, you should opt for healthier options. This includes fruits and vegetables full of important vitamins and minerals that help keep your teeth healthy. Eating crunchy vegetables such as carrots or celery can also help remove plaque from your teeth. Snacking on nuts, dairy, and high-protein foods can help repair enamel. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day would be best to keep your mouth hydrated.
Fixing the Damage
Though it’s important to take care of your oral health, sometimes the damage is already done. Suppose you suffer from a toothache, dental trauma, or any other urgent issue. In that case, it’s best to visit an emergency dentist as soon as possible to get it fixed quickly. Having full-mouth dental implants installed is the best option to restore your teeth if you suffer from dental trauma. A full arch of implants provides a permanent solution for those missing or damaged teeth. For athletes, these implants can also provide better protection from further injury and more stability when playing sports.
Regular checkups with your dentist can also help to ensure that any oral health issues are caught early and treated appropriately. Poor dental hygiene can cause several serious issues, including pain, infections, tissue damage, and missing teeth.
You must take the necessary steps to maintain oral health as an athlete. Though this may require extra effort, it’ll be worth it in the long run, as a healthy mouth is essential to maintaining overall good health.