Hang up your running shoes- because exercising could ruin your smile, according to a new study. German researchers found the longer an athlete trains, the more damage they cause to their teeth. They found that the longer athletes exercised, the less saliva they produced and the more alkaline it became. Alkaline saliva works to encourage the growth of plaque bacteria, the team explained. For every extra hour of training each week, the study found an increased risk of a person needing fillings, or having decayed or missing teeth.
It comes as another study published this week called into question the benefits of exercise, as scientists discovered people tend to drink more alcohol on days when they have worked out. And last year, researchers found too much exercise had few positive effects on mental health. Teenagers who exercised for 17.5 hours a week were are as likely to have low self-esteem, anxiety and stress as those who were active for 3.5 or less, they said.
In the new study, a team of dentists at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany examined the teeth of 35 triathletes and 35 non-athletes. While other dentists have suggested that athletes have bad teeth because they drink more sugary sports drinks, this study found there was no link between sports drinks and tooth erosion, The Times reported. Alkaline saliva fosters the growth of plaque bacteria, which cause tooth decay, the researchers explained.
They suggested that running might reduce the enamel-protecting protein found in saliva, meaning even drinking water could lead to tooth erosion. For every extra hour of training each week there was a increased risk of having fillings or decayed or missing teeth.
However Dr Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg, who led the study, said: ‘The link between the hours of training [and decay] was not strong enough to imply causation. She added that athletes should take better care of their teeth. She said: ‘Additionally, there is a need for exercise-adjusted oral hygiene regimes and nutritional modifications in the field of sports dentistry.’
The news backs up previous research which revealed the poor condition of the teeth of of athletes competing in the London 2012 Olympic Games. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that three quarters of the 278 athletes competing in the Games had gum disease, while half had cavities and tooth erosion.