Whether playing football, swimming competitively, running marathons, or anything in between, athletes are generally admired for their commitment to body strength and health. Unfortunately, oral health is one area that athletes fall short. When surveyed, most athletes practice regular dental hygiene, even more so than the average person, but they still are suffering from oral health issues. In a study conducted by The UCL Eastman Dental Institute, nearly half of the surveyed athletes had untreated tooth decay. Additionally, the majority of the athletes had signs of gum inflammation and roughly 1/3 of the athletes reported that their oral health was impacting the effectiveness of their training and performance.

For people representing the physical potential of the human body, why would oral health be problematic? One word: Sugar. Sugar delivers a burst of energy to athletes right when they need it. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended maximum sugar intake for the average man is 37.5 g and 25 g for women daily. Most athletes utilize sports drinks and energy bars packed with sugar regularly. Just consider the average sugar in each of these items:

Sports Drinks:

Gatorade—34 grams

Powerade—34 grams

Vitamin Water—32 grams

For comparison sake, Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar. Sports drinks are essentially sodas with a few added benefits.

Energy Bars:

Power Bar—23 grams

Clif Bar—22 grams

Gatorade Protein Bars—28 grams

Although it does not have comparable protein or minerals, you could almost eat two glazed Krispy Kreme donuts and eat equivalent sugar.

Not all products marketed for a healthy lifestyle are actually healthy. Thankfully, there are healthier alternatives to give athletes a boost without killing their oral health. Here are a few good ones:

  • Coconut Water—This natural option has the boost of electrolytes, which is essential for athletes, without the overwhelming amounts of sugar. It has 25% fewer calories and ½ the sugar of sports drinks. Additionally, it has a gram of protein, which is great for muscle building and restoration.
  • Bananas—Bananas are a natural, low-calorie boost of electrolytes, ideal for after-workout. They can also help with muscle spasms and cramps.
  • Kind Bars—There are some varieties of Kind Bars which only have 5 grams of sugar. Because of the stickiness of energy bars, they can still be problematic for oral health if not cleaned out of teeth properly.

Elite athletes can boost their oral health through reducing sugar intake, utilizing a fluoride mouthwash, and increasing their dental visits. Prioritizing oral health should be a part of every athlete’s health regimen. If your active lifestyle has been hindering your oral health, schedule a visit with Providence Dental Spa to start winning at oral health.