Oral hygiene in sportsmen and women

Some joint and muscle injuries are a consequence of dental or paradental infections.

Up to 18% of professional athletes acknowledge that oral health problems may have had a negative influence on their sports performance. Caries is a very prevalent pathology in the general population and some habits or situations can favor its appearance.

The practice of sports involves specific habits that can increase the risk of caries. It is important to take measures to prevent the appearance of caries and dental erosion.

Sport is a very healthy practice for any person, but it involves a series of habits that can favor the appearance of caries. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the increased risk of caries associated with sports habits in order to take preventive measures:

1.- Nutrition: the nutritional adaptation of athletes can lead to an increase in carbohydrates in the diet. Bacteria transform them into acids that attack dental enamel and, over time, without adequate oral hygiene, cause caries and dental erosion.

Eating patterns or xerostomia associated with sports can increase the risk of caries.

Hydration (isotonic drinks and gels): drinks that help hydration and recovery contain a high glycemic index, with an acidity that favors the erosion of the enamel and, consequently, increases the risk of caries and dental hypersensitivity.

On the other hand, the dehydration caused during sports practice favors the reduction of salivary flow, with loss of the protective properties of saliva. This further alters the metabolization of carbohydrates with greater acidity and less protection against it.

3.- Breathing: during sports practice, mouth breathing is adopted which dries out the mouth and leads to the appearance of xerostomia. Xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome is caused by a decrease in saliva secretion. Saliva has important functions in the prevention of caries:

  • It neutralizes the acid pH that appears after meals. This prevents the dissolution of enamel.
  • Remineralizes the enamel: calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions that are normally dissolved in saliva can be reincorporated into the enamel.
  • It regulates the accumulation of bacteria in the oral cavity, responsible for the appearance of caries or other diseases such as gingivitis.
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Stress: recreational sports are associated with reduced stress levels. However, athletes who participate in competitions, federated or not, as well as professionals and elite athletes, are subjected to high levels of stress. Hormonal alterations caused by stress are conducive to the appearance of xerostomia.

In addition, these athletes are more prone to develop bruxism. Bruxism causes uniform wear of the enamel that leads to increased dental sensitivity, caries and pain.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of caries in people who practice sports:

1) Nutrition/hydration: drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially during sports to combat dehydration and consequent dry mouth. If isotonic/energy drinks are used, choose those with a lower cariogenic potential (lower sugar content).

The healthiest way to provide carbohydrates is through a balanced diet that includes them throughout the week, with a low glycemic index to increase hepatic and muscular glycogen reserves. This not only reduces the risk of caries, but also of other alterations such as insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia.

2) Daily oral hygiene

  • Tooth brushing: twice a day or after meals. It is the basis of oral hygiene and the most effective element for the elimination of food debris and bacteria.
  • Interproximal hygiene: with dental floss/tapes, interproximal brushes and oral irrigators to prevent the accumulation of food debris and bacteria in the interdental area, the source of most caries.
  • Use of specific products for the prevention of caries and dental erosion.