Study: Excessive exercise could be bad for your teeth

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HEIDELBERG, Germany — A study published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports says vigorous exercise is good for virtually every part of the body — except perhaps the teeth.

This comes on the heels of a study published last year in The British Journal of Sports Medicine that showed a majority of 278 athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London who were examined by dentists had “poor oral health,” including high levels of tooth decay, often combined with gum disease and the tooth enamel erosion.

Researchers at the dental school at University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany and other institutions tracked 35 competitive triathletes who were 35 and older and gender-matched healthy adults who were not athletes.

Each was fully examined and filled out questionnaires about their diets. The researchers then compared both groups’ teeth and saliva.

The group of athletes showed much more erosion of tooth enamel and had more cavities, with the risk increasing as training time grew. The more time spent working out, the more likely the athlete was to have cavities.

No correlation was found in consuming sports drinks or other parts of the athletes’ diets and their oral health, and there were no differences in the chemical makeup of the saliva after both groups had been at rest.

During experimental runs, less saliva was produced and the saliva grew more alkaline, which is believed to lead to tartar plaques on teeth.

“We had thought sports drinks and nutrition might have the most detrimental influence on dental decay, but we saw no direct link,” said Dr. Cornelia Frese, a senior dentist at University Hospital Heidelberg who led the study.

Frese said the study was small and the athletes who were studied had a weekly training time of nine hours.

“All we can say is that prolonged endurance training might be a risk factor for oral health,” Frese said.