How to protect your dental health as a runner

Are you a runner? You may or may not be aware that there are several risks to your dental health that can cause real problems in the long term. Here we will outline what these risks are, and what you can do to reverse these dangers with awareness and a simple change to your habits. And it's not just runners that maybe effected by these issues, cyclists and other athletes can benefit from this too.


Risk 1) Gels, chews and energy bars


With the great selection of gels, chews and energy bars now available, you may have incorporated these into a regular fuelling strategy to aid runs. The problem is that they contain sugar in different forms, and in bars sticky dried fruit. 'Sticky' is the big problem for dentistry because when sugary substances adhere to your tooth enamel, bacteria will then quickly gather leading to cavities. 

The solution:
• Swill and rinse with water! After you have swallowed your gel or eaten your chew or bar simply swill your mouth well with water, let the water go over and around your teeth and swallow it. Do this every time to neutralise your mouth and help return it to a normal PH. 

Risk 2) Dry teeth and gums

lip balm

There are a few things to consider here. Do you run with your mouth open and if so are your teeth exposed for much of the duration - are your teeth and gums very dry? Dry mouth can lead to cavities and a risk of gum disease which can ultimately lead to tooth loss because you are producing less spit. Saliva is responsible for washing away debris and it also neutralises acid from food and bacteria. Dry mouth can also predispose us to teeth staining and discolouration due to enamel erosion.

The solutions:
• Hydrate on your run. Carry enough water on your run to sip little and often and swill in your mouth - enough to keep your mouth feeling refreshed. There are many water vests and water belt solutions on the market that can help especially for longer runs. Or station a bottle on your run to refresh with at intervals. 

• Use a lip balm (or UV lip balm), this moisture may help your lips to close more comfortably and glide more easily over your teeth.

Risk 3) Bruxism - teeth grinding


Some runners have problems with clenching their teeth hard during tough speed work sessions. And also problems with grinding teeth at night as the body recovers from these sessions. 

The solutions :
• Relax - really focus on relaxing your facial muscles. Let's use the example of the incredible Eliude Kipchoge, he knows the importance of smiling when the going gets tough! Studies have shown that when we smile, we feel that our perceived effort is far less than the effort we exert when we frown while exercising. It also helps to trigger endorphins that counter the stress we feel and help to reduce the heart rate. Also focus on relaxing the shoulders and arms to relieve tension during the run. Relaxing your breathing can really help with this too. 

• Consider a night guard. Talk to your dentist, they can examine your teeth and look for current signs of wear. They will be able to recommend and show you examples of comfortable night guards that you can pop in at night to take the pressure off your teeth and allow your teeth and jaw to relax.

Importance of routine


Ultimately One of the best things you can do to look after your dental health is to keep up with your routine dental health exams, this way your dentist can advise and check how your teeth are and assess your risks according to your life style and routines. 

Come and see us for your routine appointment, and we can help to put your mind at rest. 

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