5 Ways Proper Dental Care Can Help Athletes Avoid Illness

Proper Dental Care

We tend to separate the health of our teeth and mouth from the health of the rest of our body. But in fact, taking care of your teeth can have a great impact on your general health, likewise ignoring good dental care can have a negative impact on your health. Furthermore, given that we beat up our bodies with intense exercise, proper dental care can help athletes avoid illness.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% of all systemic diseases show oral signs and symptoms. Systemic illnesses are those that affect the entire body and not just one particular organ, such as diabetes where a mouth infection can make it more difficult to control this disease.  

Taking care of your teeth means keeping bacteria under control so that it doesn’t reach levels of oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. Here are 5 ways that dental health can affect your fitness and what you can do to improve oral hygiene.

  1. Saliva: Producing enough saliva helps keep our mouth healthy because it neutralizes acidity. In a study published by the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 35 triathletes, and a similar number of control groups were tested for the pH balances in their saliva. Higher cavity risk was found in those who trained more. This group had noticeably higher pH or alkaline content in their saliva. But the good news is that regular exercise lowered the risk of developing gum disease in 54% of subjects who underwent another survey. Regular exercise differs from rigorous exercise, which explains the seemingly contradictory results.
  2. Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth can be inhaled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. A recent study found that people who never get dental checkups had an 86% greater risk of pneumonia than to those who visit the dentist twice a year. 
    You might think being fit helps to strengthen the body against illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia, and to a certain extent that is true. However for those who practice extreme sports – marathons, triathlons, extreme OCR, and in some cases even CrossFit – your body can really get worn out without proper recovery. In this case, you will be much more susceptible to harmful bacteria taking over your body, so take care of your mouth and keep the bacteria at bay.
  3. Cardiovascular disease:  Gum disease and tooth decay can play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots because mouth bacteria may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries. It’s best to use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing. You should also select the best mouth wash brand for your specific needs because some mouthwashes work better for certain things. For example, you can find a mouthwash that specifically targets problems with receding gums, while others are gum treatments for gingivitis. 
  4. Bacteria in the bloodstream: Bleeding gums can transfer blood from your mouth to other areas of your body which can seriously affect your overall health, especially if your immune system is already compromised. 
  5. Alzheimer’s: Gum disease has surprisingly been linked to a number of Alzheimer’s cases. The Science Advances journal published a study in 2019 that examined brain tissues of deceased Alzheimer’s patients and found that they contained Porphyromonas gingivalis, one of the primary pathogens responsible for gum disease.

Good oral care is more than just about keeping a bright smile. Without oral hygiene, your body is more prone to certain diseases. Brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing, regular dental checkups, and the use of a good mouthwash will help prevent the buildup of plaque that eventually causes tooth decay and gum disease that could lead to other physical diseases. Do what you can to keep your mouth healthy because truly, proper dental care can help athletes prevent illness.

Additional References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475

https://drmichaelhandler.ca/blog/the-effects-of-sports-and-fitness-on-your-dental-health

https://www.colgateprofessional.com/education/patient-education/topics/systemic/why-a-healthy-mouth-is-good-for-your-body

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