According to a recent study, athletes have higher rates of oral disease despite brushing their teeth frequently. As per the British Dental Journal, 94% of athletes report brushing their teeth at least twice a day whereas 44% reported regular flossing.
Comparatively 75% of population brush their teeth daily and 21% of them just floss. The reasons identified were regular intake of sports drinks, energy bars and gels, all of which are known to damage teeth. The sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and acid erosion. This could be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay and acid erosion observed during dental check-ups.
Studies in the past have also confirmed that athletes may have a higher risk of oral disease because of having a dry mouth. Other explanations include the mouth becoming dry due to breathing heavily during exercise so there is less protection from saliva in the mouth.
The researchers surveyed data from 352 Olympics and professional male and female athletes across 11 different sports including swimming, cycling, soccer, rowing, hockey and sailing.
Even after practicing good oral hygiene, the researchers reported that the athletes had substantial amount of dental problems. One of the problems is diet. Athletes often rely on heavy carbohydrate intake to boost their energy when training or competing. They intake carbs in the form of sugars mixed with acidic sports drinks or slick gels. This gives oral bacteria a boost the same way it boosts the athlete.
However, in an attempt to improve oral health, athletes are willing to adopt behaviour change like additional fluoride use from mouthwash, reduction in the intake of sports drinks and frequent dental visits.
Therefore, it is not only important to brush and floss regularly. There are other factors like diet, lifestyle and psychology to make sure your teeth are healthy and free from gum disease.