Dental health in sports: What athletes should really know
Sports nutrition without tooth damage: Here's how!
Dental health: As an athlete – whether professional or amateur – you are careful to do everything you can for your health. After all, a healthy body is ready to perform at its best every day and successively increase the training volume.
It is a well-known fact that vegetables and fruit are part of a healthy diet and should be eaten about five times a day during daily training. However, shortly before or during the training session or competition, one should avoid foods rich in fiber, so as not to burden the body with physical exertion and digestion at the same time.
Athletes like to use sports drinks that prevent or delay the depletion of the body’s carbohydrate stores and counteract dehydration.
But did you know that these sports drinks can affect your dental health? What are the effects of low pH sports drinks on dental health? How can I prevent caries and dental erosion?
In this article, we want to get to the bottom of these questions.
Dental caries and erosion – diseases caused by nutrition
Caries and erosion are two diseases predominantly caused by nutritional factors. Caries is caused by the breakdown of short-chain carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides) in a bacterial biofilm that sits on the teeth.
At the end of this metabolism, organic acids are released, which decalcify the enamel and the enamel becomes porous. An exception to the short-chain carbohydrates is isomaltulose.
This dual sugar, consisting of fructose and glucose, cannot be cleaved by bacteria in the oral cavity and is therefore not cariogenic.
By the way: Our SLOW CARB products, as well as the PORRIDGE and PROTEIN BARs contain the mentioned isomaltulose.
Dental erosion is caused by acid exposure from food, beverages or gastric acid which leads to the erosion of enamel and dentin. Erosions or tooth erosions are thus understood to be a gradual loss of tooth hard tissue due to direct contact with acid.
Measures for a tooth-healthy diet
Frequency and type of snacks
The frequency of intake of sugary foods is crucial for caries growth. However, as an athlete, you often cannot cover your energy needs with the main meals alone, which is why snacks are necessary.
Solid fruits and vegetables are suitable as snacks from a caries prevention perspective. When it comes to fruit, apples and oranges are particularly suitable, as they additionally increase salivation. Increased saliva flow has a positive effect on dental health (see below).
Bananas, figs and dates, as well as sweets, should preferably be eaten at main meals and the mouth rinsed with water afterwards to reduce the contact time of the sugary foods with the teeth.
On days when less energy is needed, such as non-training days, try to avoid snacks between meals to limit the frequency of intake of sugary foods.
Keep contact time low
In general, it can be said that the longer the drink is in contact with the teeth, the greater the dental erosion.
Please don’t gulp down the sports drinks quickly now, just because you want to do something good for your teeth. In fact, “mouth rinsing” of high-carbohydrate beverages has a performance-enhancing effect.
However, this is what you can do during training sessions: Take a second bottle of water with you and always rinse with water after taking a sip from the sports drink – you can also spit out the water.
Saliva contains buffer systems for neutralizing acids and minerals that make up the hard tooth substance, especially calcium and phosphate.
Thus, it is understandable that a stimulated salivary flow can neutralize harmful acids and, at the same time, promote the re-storage of already lost minerals in the tooth.
Coffee, tea, alcohol (red wine) and cigarettes not only discolor teeth, but also reduce the flow of saliva. Here, sugar-free chewing gum can counteract this by promoting the flow of saliva, as can conscious chewing.
Calcium, magnesium and nitrate
The following micronutrients can make a positive contribution to dental health: Calcium and magnesium have a positive influence on the hard tooth substance as well as the bone and the periodontium.
Natural sources of this are dairy products, green vegetables and sesame seeds. Gum inflammation is prevented by nitrate-rich food, e.g. arugula.
The micronutrient fluoride promotes the strengthening of tooth enamel in the body. Here, the use of fluoridated iodized salt in everyday life can help you to supply the body with fluoride evenly in low concentrations throughout the day.
If you use the fluoridated iodized salt in your meals according to your taste, you can playfully help your dental health.
Even though brushing teeth sounds so simple and natural, it should be mentioned here.
Use a fluoride toothpaste twice a day to achieve a caries reduction of over 40%. The recommendes type of toothbrush depends on how good your oral hygiene is.
Hard bristles are recommended for poor oral hygiene. Use soft bristles if you have good oral hygiene, but there are brushing defects on the gums.
A toothbrush should have end-rounded nylon bristles. The brushing system, which ensures that no tooth is forgotten when brushing, is more important than the brushing technique.
When talking about the right time to brush your teeth, it should be said that brushing your teeth before eating does not make sense. Immediately after eating, especially with acidic foods, the tooth surface is attacked and can be reduced by direct brushing, which promotes the development of erosion.
A pH neutralization in the mouth is only given approx. 30 minutes after food intake, from then on brushing teeth is recommended.
What does the pH value of a sports drink say?
The pH value indicates whether a liquid is more acidic or basic in character. The smaller the pH value, the more acidic the solution. The higher the pH value, the more basic the solution.
Solutions with a pH value of 7 are called “neutral solutions”. The acid of lemon, for example, has a pH of about 2. A pH of about 5.5 and lower, for example, leads to the demineralization of hydroxyapatite, the main component of tooth enamel and dentin (dental bone).
Demineralization is when the body loses minerals such as calcium or phosphate. This primarily affects structures and organs whose mineral content is particularly high, such as bones and teeth.
Teeth can be demineralized when acids have dissolved minerals out of the enamel.
We therefore also pay attention to an appropriate pH value in our MoN sports drinks:
FAST CARB HEAT
You can see, almost all of our products are tooth-friendly. The only product that has a pH value below 5.5 is the product SLOW CARB HEAT. Here we are currently in the process of modifying the formulation to improve the pH value by changing the mixture.
The “tooth-friendly” MoN products have also been noticed by the dentist of MoN athlete Daniel Gathof: “This has become particularly clear in dental cleaning, where treatments are documented over a longer period of time,” says the professional cyclist. He has been using the MoN products for over two and a half years.
“During this period, my dentist was able to see significant improvements on my dental neck. My risk of getting cavities has decreased. In addition, most sports drinks contain acid, which attacks tooth enamel and promotes hypersensitive teeth. MoN products contain no or hardly any citric acid, which has had a very positive effect on my overall dental health.”Daniel Gathof continues.
The tooth fairy likes balance
In conclusion, it is important to say that a performance-enhancing diet may or may not always be the most health-promoting diet.
It is important to know that sports drinks influence dental health and therefore need to be used sensibly. Particularly on days when you’re not exercising, it’s better to choose a healthy diet with water as a thirst quencher and brush your teeth regularly. This will make the tooth fairy happy.
Mettler et al (2006); Osmolality and pH of sport and other drinks available in Switzerland, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin und Sporttraumatologie, 54 (3), 92-95, 2006.
Zimmer & M. Bizhang (2022); Zahngesundheit und Ernährung, Ernährungs Umschau, 2, M74-M84.
Müller & C. Müller (2023); Einfluss der Mundhygiene auf Ernährungsverhalten und -status, Interview mit Dr. Dagmar Müller und Dr. Christoph Müller, Ernährungs Umschau 3, M178-180.
Zimmer & M. Bizhang (2023); Die Zahnbürste. Wie soll sie aussehen wie wird sie benutzt?, Ernährungs Umschau 3, M170-176.