As an athlete, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about your physical health. But in the midst of powering through intense training sessions and tossing back energy gels, it’s easy to lose sight of one critical aspect of that puzzle: your oral health.
Athletic pursuits can complicate oral health in a number of ways, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the best strategies for maintaining dental health in spite of these challenges. Here are five simple ways athletes can take better care of their teeth.
Wear a mouthguard.
If you participate in a sport that is highly prone to collisions (think football, field hockey, and so on), then it’s important to wear a mouthguard during every practice or competition. Mouthguards help protect your teeth from chips, cracks, or breaks in the event of collision.
If you do utilize a mouthguard, make sure to clean it after every use and store it in a dry environment. This helps ensure you aren’t introducing nasty bacteria into your mouth whenever you use the mouthguard.
Wear a helmet.
At first glance, this might not seem relevant to your teeth. After all, aren’t helmets designed to protect your head? The answer is yes—but they often end up helping to protect your teeth in the process. That’s because the helmet serves as a barrier between your head and face and whatever you’re colliding into. Sometimes, that half-inch buffer is the difference between a broken tooth and a healthy smile.
Consume a healthy diet.
Not only does a healthy diet fuel your athletic pursuits, but it’s also important for oral health. More and more research confirms proper nutrition is one of the most important tools in a person’s dental health arsenal. So go easy on the sugar and processed foods and opt for whole foods and plenty of fresh produce instead.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is essential for any athlete. It prevents dehydration and helps keep you physically energized. Hydration is also important for your oral health. Proper hydration helps ensure your salivary glands function at their best, which is important for keeping your mouth clean and helping to rinse off plaque and bacteria from your teeth.
Avoid sugary sports drinks.
Because it’s important to stay hydrated during athletic pursuits, it’s convenient (and tempting) to reach for a sugary sports drink after a tough workout. But these beverages can do more harm than good. The high sugar content of many sports drinks can increase your risk of developing cavities and provoke inflammation in your body, including your mouth. Stick to water or low-sugar beverages instead.
In addition to these athlete-specific tips, it always bears repeating that the best way for anyone to maintain their oral health over the long-term is to brush twice a day, floss every day, and see a dentist regularly for professional cleanings. Practice sound oral hygiene habits in addition to the tips outlined above, and even the most competitive athlete stands a good shot of preserving their oral health.