Dental hygiene: Why triathletes shouldn’t neglect their teeth

New research suggests endurance athletes’ dental health isn’t up to scratch…

illustration of teeth with triathlete brushing them

As endurance athletes, we recognise the benefits of fuelling by a variety of energy products, be it drinks, blocks, gels or bars. This is great for delivering high-intensity efforts. But, says a recent study involving German athletes, it’s not so great for dental health.

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Eighty-eight competitive and 57 amateur athletes were recruited for oral analysis with both groups showing signs of gingival inflammation. This is the part of the gum around the base of the tooth and stems from plaque and tartar remaining on the teeth.

Overall, though, the competitive group’s state of oral play was worse than the amateur athletes. It’s impossible to pinpoint why but, understandably, fingers were pointed at the high-sugar products athletes consume by the bucketload.

Sugary supplements are essential for many endurance athletes, but dental hygiene can be improved by: brushing twice daily for at least 2mins; brushing your tongue; flossing; eating crunchy vegetables; seeing your dentist at least twice a year; and drinking plenty of water.

Top 6 dental hygiene tips:

1. Brush twice a day, for two minutes – sensure you’re getting off all the plaque by using circular motions, but stay gentle so you don’t damage the gums or enamel

2. Remember to floss – the oft neglected tip that your dentist keeps trying to instill in you, flossing (not hte dance) is essential to remove built-up plaque and stuck food that could lead to an infection, inflammation, and degradation of the tooth 

3. Brush before bed and after foods that stain the teeth – it’s a good idea to brush your teeth before bed and get rid of any bits of food that could fester and damage the teeth as you sleep, similarly, make sure that you brush your teeth after foods that could stain the enamel like coffee and tea as the tannin could lead to a more yellow-looking smile

4. Brush that tongue – did you know that forgetting to brush any detritus build-up on your tongue could contribute to oral health problems? You can do this with the back of your toothbrush or gently with the brush head itself

5. Floride it up – though recent years have seen floride banded around with some worried about how it could affect your health, the science is in on its importance in keeping your teeth free of tooth decay. Floride has been proven to both fight bacteria that contribute towards decay, as well as help build a protective layer over the teeth

6. Join the mouthwash hype – mouthwash is said toreduce the amount of acid in the mouth and helps to clean corners that are hard to reach with your brush. In particular, mouthwash is a great tool for those that have trouble brushing and flossing their teeth effectively

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Top illustration: Daniel Seex for 220Triathlon