How Winter Athletes Can Care For Their Teeth
- February 15, 2018
The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway. The games, which provide a unique bringing together of countries in the name of sport, are inspirational for a number of reasons — chief among them the hard work and dedication displayed by the athletes. And studies suggest that after the Olympic games, people are inspired to become more active and perhaps try a new activity.
But, before you commit yourself to ski jumping or hockey in the coming weeks and months, there are some important things to keep in mind to maintain a healthy smile and avoid dental disaster.
Read on to learn more about how you can protect your teeth. And consider partnering with the highly skilled dental professionals at Gentle Dental Care! We’ll cheer you on in your new athletic endeavor, and we’ll help you achieve a smile worthy of the gold medal. For excellent general dentistry, restorative dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry in Plainville, CT, call us at (860) 479-2397.
1. Get Yourself A Well-Fitting Mouthguard.
It’s often recommended that athletes involved in contact sports — like hockey — wear mouthguards. But injuries to the teeth, gums, and other soft tissue within the mouth can occur even in activities like ice skating and snowboarding. One meta-analysis of available research revealed that an athlete not wearing a properly fitting mouthguard is nearly twice as likely to suffer an injury as an athlete who is sufficiently protected, regardless of skill level.
So, the American Dental Association recommends mouthguards for all athletes — but they have to be well-made and fit well. You might be tempted to purchase inexpensive one-size-fits-all or “boil-and-bite” mouthguards from your local sporting goods store. But the only way to ensure proper fit is to get a mouthguard custom-made by a dental professional.
At Gentle Dental Care, we work closely with a trusted laboratory to ensure a flawless fit and maximum protection. We offer different thicknesses of mouthguard, depending on your sport or activity, and you can even pick your color!
When used properly, a well-made mouthguard can prevent broken or knocked out teeth, soft tissue injuries, fractured jawbones, and even concussions.
2. Stay Hydrated.
Particularly with cold-weather sports, it can be difficult to tell whether you’re staying sufficiently hydrated. Of course, proper water intake helps you avoid cramps and perform your best. But it’s also important for your dental health!
Dry mouth is one of the first signs that you’re not drinking enough water. It’s a symptom of mild dehydration, so you might be tempted to ignore it. But the decrease in saliva production actually makes you more susceptible to cavities.
That’s because saliva is one of your body’s natural defenses against tooth decay. It helps wash away food debris that might otherwise linger on your teeth and along the gumline. If your saliva production is down, bacterial buildup becomes more likely.
In fact, a small study among Olympic endurance athletes revealed that these hard-working athletes tended to have “poor oral health” compared to non-athletes. It wasn’t because these athletes consumed more sugary sports drinks; the findings were consistent even among water-drinking athletes.
Researchers determined that the discrepancy was likely caused by the decrease in saliva production athletes experienced.
The moral of the story: Increase your water intake if you’ll be engaging in strenuous activity. Even if you’re not training as hard as Olympic athletes, you’ll still experience a decrease in saliva production to some degree.
3. Maintain A Nutritious Diet.
Sure, Michael Phelps at one time had to eat multiple pounds of pasta a day to sustain his intense training regime. But it probably goes without saying that you most likely don’t need to eat that way. Starchy foods like pasta break down into sugars that coat your teeth and contribute to tooth decay.
Eating a well-balanced diet, complete with the fiber-rich vegetables and phosphorus-rich proteins is as good for your smile as it is for your body! Fruits and vegetables with a high water content can help remove plaque, the sticky bacterial buildup that clings to teeth.
It’s also important to be selective about what you consume to refuel after a day on the rink or on the slopes. It’s always tempting to grab a sports drink or protein bar. They’re tasty and great for a quick boost of energy after working hard. But they’re also frequently packed with sugar, and protein bars are often dense and chewy — meaning they can dislodge dental crowns and other work you’ve had done if you’re not careful.
Let’s Team Up For A Winning Smile
One of the best ways to keep your teeth and gums in great shape is to commit to routine dental exams and cleanings. These visits give us the opportunity to catch problems early, and they also minimize plaque and tartar buildup.