Your Dental Workout: How Exercise Affects Your Teeth

It happens every year. The calendar switches, and suddenly everyone and their brother is filling the gym in an attempt to get the beach body they had when they were 17 years old. Some call it a new year’s resolution, while others simply say they are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. The fact is that everyone is trying to undo bad dietary choices from their past. This is a worthy goal for people to take up. Living a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a healthy diet is something we here at Ardelean Family Dentistry in Clinton Township, MI actively encourage.

Some of the people who make this change fall off after a few months and are soon back into the same routine they left. There are also people who transform from couch potato to gym rat, and then those who fall in the middle. If you are part of the first group, we want to encourage you to get back into the gym. A healthy lifestyle is hard to start, but the rewards truly last for a lifetime.

Regardless of whether you have fallen out of your workout routine, have become an exercise fanatic, or are just a couple-times-a-week fitness fan, you need to know what your exercise is doing to your teeth. Everyone thinks that working out only affects your muscles and body fat, but keeping a regular exercise routine has very real effects on your dental health as well.

Exercise and Gum Disease

The Research …

As surprising as it may seem, there appears to be a real link between gum disease and exercise. According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Periodontology, there is a direct link between physical fitness and your likelihood of developing periodontal disease (that is the fancy way of saying gum disease). While one study is a good start, it is certainly not something that you could say is concrete evidence of a causal link. So they repeated the study again in 2010. The new study was also published in the Journal of Periodontology, and the results again showed a very real link between being fit and not developing gum disease.

What The Research Means …

So, for those of you who have not taken a course on research methods, this might all seem well and good, but you don’t quite get why two studies done five years apart, and more than six years ago, are so important to this topic. The reason is that the first study revealed what researchers call a “causal link.” This is like the holy grail of research. Then, they were able to repeat the results in a separate study. As far as the scientific community is concerned, this is an open and shut case. If you are a fit, healthy person, you are at much less risk of gum disease than someone who is not.

Exercise And Your Teeth

Exercise is almost always associated with a positive outcome. The only bad that ever comes from exercise is sore muscles, and maybe the occasional sports injury, but those are expected. You most certainly don’t associate tooth decay and enamel erosion with working out. Well, things are changing all around us, and this is one of those things. Thanks to our friends at the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, there is now data that suggests that intense exercise has a damaging effect on our teeth over time.

The study found that athletes in general showed a higher degree of eroded tooth enamel than a control group made up of mostly sedentary people. Sedentary is another word for people who sit a lot and are not generally active. This erosion of the enamel is believed to be caused by the changes in saliva production during intense workout sessions. Consumption of sugary sports drinks also contributed to the situation. The athletes showed a lower level of saliva, which in turn made the alkaline levels in the saliva they did have much higher. This is believed to cause a higher risk of enamel erosion and, in turn, tooth decay.

What Does This All Mean?

This means that there is a very real link between being healthy and not developing gum disease. It also means there MAY be a link between intense exercise and higher levels of tooth decay. I say may be a link, because the study is only a year old. There is further research to be done before a causal link could be proved. So in short, get healthy, and your gums will thank you, but if you overdo it, your teeth might not appreciate it.

Dr. Ardelean is waiting to help you no matter what level of physical activity you call normal. Call our office today at 586-465-4505 to schedule your appointment. We can’t wait to meet you and help you live a full and healthy life.