Importance of oral health in sport

Oral health care is essential for people’s well-being. But it also influences sports performance. Discover it here.

Last update: 04 December, 2021

Oral health and sports they have a close relationship both ways. For one thing, oral problems can affect athletic performance. Contrary to this, vigorous exercises and practices can damage the mouth.

But this link is not necessarily negative or injurious. Well, the fact of practicing sports is a habit associated with healthy lifestyles that benefit the person in an integral way. In addition, oral health care can be used to improve athletic performance.

Read on and learn more about the importance of paying attention to oral health care in sport.

How Oral Health Influences Sport

As we already anticipated, oral health and sport are in a constant relationship with each other. Performing physical activity requires efforts and physiological processes in which the whole body is involved; even the oral cavity.

Thus, having problems in the mouth can negatively influence the performance of certain practices. Any inflammatory or infectious process, for example, increases the risk of muscle injury.

Inflammatory processes and infections in the mouth can spread beyond the oral cavity, affecting other parts of the body. The toxins that travel through the bloodstream increase the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, organic infections and also affections in ligaments, muscles and joints.

Physical performance decreases in the cases of high competition athletes who have chronic inflammations, such as that caused by periodontitis. Mouth problems that cause pain or make it difficult to eat as well have a negative impact on the athlete’s performance.

If the person has problems chewing, their energy power will be lower. When presenting pain in the mouth, all the activity will be conditioned, limited or even suspended by the discomfort.

Temporomandibular joint and occlusal problems may disrupt balance and cause neck and back contractures or pain. Conversely, when the jaw is relaxed, a greater supply of oxygen is achieved and less release of lactic acid and stress-related hormones, thus increasing the athlete’s endurance.

Sports fatigue can be caused by chronic inflammatory processes in the mouth.

Therefore, it is correct to say that having oral health problems has a negative impact on sports performance.

How sport influences oral health

The frequent and intense practice of certain sports can favor the development of various oral pathologies. Other times, it is the habits around sports activity that promote the appearance of oral diseases.

Playing sports intensively and frequently involves certain customs and practices that can be harmful to oral health:

  • Nutrition: diets rich in carbohydrates promote the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. The pro-inflammatory effects of these foods could increase the risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
  • Energy drinks and isotonic gels: drinks used for hydration and nutrient and electrolyte recovery contain high concentrations of carbohydrates. If they are also acidic or carbonated, they favor dental erosion.
  • Dehydration: the loss of body water increases dry mouth and the loss of the protective effect of saliva.
  • Mouth breathing: Breathing with your mouth during sports can cause dry mouth and xerostomia. The lack of saliva favors the development of many oral pathologies.
  • Stress: The high levels of stress to which an athlete can be subjected, especially those of the elite or those who compete, favor the development of bruxism, clenching, dental wear and injuries in the temporomandibular joint. The sensitivity, cavities and pain associated with these pathologies increase the discomfort of the athlete.
  • Overtraining: athletes who train too long or too hard experience a decrease in salivary flow and pH. This increases the risk of tooth decay and erosion.
  • Eating Disorders: Due to the exhaustive weight controls of some disciplines, eating disorders can develop that predispose to tooth decay and erosions.


Oral problems associated with the practice of sports

The performance of certain sports, training and the other factors that develop around the practice make certain pathologies more frequent among athletes. Next, we mention the most common oral health problems associated with sport.

Cavities

Caries are one of the most frequent pathologies associated with sports. The diet rich in carbohydrates and sugars common among athletes and decreased saliva due to dehydration or mouth breathing predispose to the development of the disease.

The stress associated with the competitions also favors dry mouth that leads to the appearance of cavities. Neglecting dental hygiene favors bacterial proliferation and therefore demineralization of the hard tissues of the teeth.

Many of the oral situations that predispose to cavities and occur during sports cannot be avoided. It is so prevention with rigorous oral hygiene habits helps reduce risk to suffer from this disease.

Tooth erosion

It’s about the progressive and irreversible loss of the hard tissues of the teeth as a consequence of the action of acids present in the mouth. Unlike cavities, here it is not the bacteria that produce the chemical agent that generates demineralization.

The acidity of isotonic and energy drinks and eating disorders that cause reflux or vomiting, can be the cause of the high prevalence of dental erosion in athletes. Apart from tooth wear, sensitivity is one of the main manifestations of this condition.

Gingivitis and periodontal disease

Dehydration, mouth breathing and stress decrease salivary flow and thus the protective function of saliva. If we add to this poor oral hygiene, the bacterial plaque will accumulate and calcify, giving rise to tartar deposits on teeth and gums.

The accumulation of bacteria and tartar causes inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth. This is how the gums swell, turn a deep red color, bleed easily and hurt.

If gingivitis is not treated, evolves into deeper inflammation and infection known as periodontal disease. Here the tissues that support the tooth are affected, bone is lost, the teeth move and can even be lost.

As we already mentioned, this state of persistent inflammation and infection of the oral tissues can cause chronic muscle injuries, contractures or fatigue. This pathology requires dental treatment to regain oral health and at the same time improve physical performance.

Bruxism

The practice of certain sports causes high levels of stress and tension in the athlete, especially if he faces competitions continuously. This constant nervousness can generate a Excessive clenching of the jaws or greater contact of the teeth with each other.

Grinding and exaggerated forces end up wearing out the dental elements and generating sensitivity. In addition, they affect the temporomandibular joint and cause pain and contractures in the chewing muscles, of the head and neck.

Bruxism in sport can come from being subjected to high levels of stress due to competition.

Dental trauma

The practice of some sports increases the risk of getting blows to the mouth and with it, trauma to soft tissues and teeth. In disciplines such as rugby, soccer, basketball or boxing, fractures, dislocations or even the total loss of teeth is quite common.

In cases of dental trauma, going to the dentist urgently improves the prognosis of the situation.



Tips to take care of oral health when playing sports

When it comes to sports, practicing certain oral care habits will help prevent problems from occurring. This, in addition to keeping the smile healthy, will improve the athlete’s physical performance.

Here are some tips to take care of oral health when playing sports:

  • Take care of the diet: Although for some athletes it is necessary to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates, moderating as much as possible will control bacterial growth. Decreasing the consumption of sugars and choosing the gels and energy drinks with the lowest cariogenic content, avoiding abuse, can make a difference.
  • Drink plenty of water: Adequate hydration during exercise helps prevent dry mouth.
  • Tooth brushing: carry out a thorough tooth brushing that reaches all sides of all teeth, gums and tongue. It should be done at least 3 times a day with a soft bristle brush.
  • Using dental floss: cleaning the area between the teeth should be done at least once a day with dental floss or using irrigators or interproximal brushes.
  • Use fluoride: Supplementing dental hygiene using fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes containing the mineral helps prevent cavities and tooth erosion.
  • Visit the dentist often: Performing regular dental check-ups helps to detect any problems and treat them in a timely manner. Regular cleanings and fluoride topications are essential to prevent the most common conditions.
  • Wear mouth guards: wearing these devices during risk sports helps protect teeth from trauma. The use of relaxation plates to treat tightness and bruxism caused by stress is also recommended.

Healthy habits to take care of oral health in sport

Taking care of oral health and playing sports are two healthy habits that improve people’s quality of life. Taking care of your body responsibly will bring multiple benefits.

That is why the practice of sports must be carried out with adequate care so as not to put the body at risk. Well-done exercise improves quality of life, increases self-esteem, and helps to take care of one’s own health.

In this way, pay attention to oral health it is a way of being responsible with the sport practice. Well, a healthy smile will improve physical performance, in addition to providing well-being.

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