For many years scientist noticed a connection between professional athletes and dental problems. The observations were associated with athletes consuming more sugary drinks and nutrition bars.
However, this assumption changed when scientist analyzed the dental health of almost 300 athletes participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The data, showed athletes suffered from increased cavities and tooth decay, despite having access to above-average dental care and nutrition. The findings were the same for athletes that originated from wealthy and poor nations.
The analysis of Olympic athletes did not identify the source of poor dental health among athletes, but it did spark international research studies. For example, researchers from the dental school at the University Hospital Heidelberg, in Germany, recruited 35 professional triathletes and 35 non-athletes (used as a control group) to further investigate the matter.
Each group completed a questionnaire about their workout practices, diet, consumption of sports beverages, and overall dental care. This was followed by each group undergoing a complete dental and gum examination. This initial phase of the study revealed that the participating athletes had significantly higher occurrences of cavities and teeth erosion compared to the control group.
The next phase of the German study consisted of examining the chemical composition of saliva between each group. This is where the data was revealing. It demonstrated that the more hours athletes worked out, saliva production decreased. The athletes mouths remained unusually dry despite consuming a sufficient amount of fluids during the regimen.
In addition, researchers detected a change in the chemical composition in the saliva of participating athletes while working out. Researchers observed more alkaline in the saliva. Saliva containing above average amounts of alkaline is a known contributor of plaque and tooth decay.
Scientist claim more research is needed. However, preliminary results indicate a correlation between increased workout hours, less saliva production and an increase of alkaline in saliva. Considering saliva has protective properties essential for oral health, imbalance in the oral environment can be a contributing factor of dental problems. Researchers suggest, workout enthusiast, and athletes should visit sports dentists more frequently, and increase good oral hygiene practices.