Why Athletes Should Pay Attention to Their Teeth

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We tend to take it as a given that most activities that get us moving are an unalloyed good. After all, sitting still too long is basically a public health hazard now. Being athletic (within reason) is fun and good for us.

Dentists at University College London may toss a wrench in that belief. According to some surprising new research, even though elite athletes brush and even floss their teeth more frequently that the rest of us, they actually have higher rates of oral disease. Brace yourself: About half had untreated tooth decay, most showed signs of gum inflammation, and almost 1 in 3 "reported that their oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance."

Whether you're a gym rat or not, this sounds pretty startling. We rely on our smiles for everything from attracting a romantic partner to nailing presentations at work. That's not even counting all the side effects to your health these conditions could bring. Luckily, there's a way around it for everyone, elite athletes included.

"We found that a majority of the athletes in our survey already have good oral health related habits in as much as they brush their teeth twice a day, visit the dentist regularly, don't smoke, and have a healthy general diet," said study author Julie Gallagher. "However, they use sports drinks, energy gels, and bars frequently during training and competition; the sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay, and the acidity of them increases the risk of erosion."

One Gatorade won't destroy your pearly whites, but weigh your options when it comes to training habits. Ultimately, water is your best bet for staying hydrated — and overall, you just can't beat the price.