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02 / 08 / 2019

Looking After Your Teeth When Playing Sports

Most of us are aware that taking part in some physical activity is good for us. It not only helps to keep our weight down and helps us to have a healthy heart, but can also help us to feel better about ourselves, especially if we get plenty of fresh air.

Some low-level activities such as walking or relaxed swimming are quite gentle and should have no ill effect on the teeth. Particularly where people take part either in contact sports, or higher level competitions though, their teeth may be at risk. Indeed, studies have been done to show that quite a lot of top athletes have poor oral health (ref 1 below).

What are the risks?

Patients of the Lighthouse Dental Practice who go for brisk walks or even casual swimming at their local pool are unlikely to be affected by most of these risks, but anyone competing at a higher level or playing sports such as rugby or football, should consider these risks very carefully.

Injury

This is the most obvious issue for anyone playing contact sports. The risk of tooth damage from an elbow, boot or even ball is significant in high-contact sports such as football or rugby. Even the seemingly more gentle game of cricket can lead to teeth being knocked out.

Ultimately, if you play a sport such as this, you need to take steps to protect your teeth. The most effective way to do this is to wear a mouthguard whilst taking part in the sport and these should be custom-made so that they are both comfortable and fit correctly. Our Ipswich dental team will make sure that your mouthguard fits correctly and comfortably by taking impressions of your teeth so that the dental laboratory can produce a custom-made guard that will protect your teeth and gums from damage.

Sports drinks and fuel

It seems that taking water on board when playing a sport is no longer enough for many people. Whilst high energy drinks may be important for participants during long and arduous activities such as long cycle races like the Tour De France, for most people eating well before they take part and refuelling afterwards with healthy food should be more than enough. Advertising is a powerful thing though, and anyone who watches football on TV can’t help but have noticed players taking drinks of sometimes rather bizarrely coloured and branded drinks from the sidelines. These drinks are often very high in sugars, whether natural or refined and this, as we know, can be very damaging to our teeth.

Dehydration

Playing sports means that we sweat and lose fluids. In order to keep our energy levels up, and in some cases to be able to participate safely, we need to take fluid on board. As mentioned above, water should be all that we need for this in the vast majority of cases.

While all sports can leave us dehydrated when we play them, there are some which have additional risks. Sports such as running or cycling, require the intake of large quantities of oxygen. To do this requires hard breathing through the mouth and in addition to overall dehydration, the airflow dries out the mouth and increases the likelihood of problems such as gum disease.

It is important to be aware of these pitfalls if you want to take part in sporting activities, but they shouldn’t put you off. Physical activity is good for our health, and in many cases is also socially beneficial. Providing that you look after your teeth and gums, most of these problems are avoidable.

Extra focus

Rather than just putting on your boots or getting on your bike, it pays to think a little harder about looking after your teeth if you play sports or take regular exercise.

  • Consider whether your sport requires that you wear a mouthguard. Some obviously do, whilst others less so. Our advice is that it is better to be safe than sorry. Tooth loss during a football game may be relatively rare but it does happen, and if it does happen to you, can require significant dental surgery to restore your teeth.
  • You probably spend hours training for your sport, so making sure that you spend the full two minutes brushing your teeth both morning and night should be no problem and will help to keep your teeth healthy. Make sure that you floss between your teeth well too.
  • Avoid sugary sports drinks. You do need water, but you likely do not need these drinks. Instead of spending good money on them, perhaps treat yourself to a good quality book on sports nutrition. You may not only save your teeth but find that your performance improves as well!

If you would like to find out more about having a mouthguard custom made for you by our Ipswich dentists, please arrange a visit with one of our team by calling the Lighthouse Dental Practice today on 01473 257329.

Reference 1

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If you would like to speak to a member of our friendly team about any of the issues in this article please visit our contact page or call us on 01473 257379.

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