Exercising oral health

Featured Products Promotional Features

  Posted by: Dental Design      4th April 2018

In recent years there has been a phenomenal increase in male and female participation in sport and exercise. Activities such as running, cycling and swimming are an effective way to accomplish and maintain both physical and mental fitness. However, although offering a large number of benefits to individuals, studies have shown numerous potential oral health risk factors connected to sport.[1] Dental practitioners and athletes alike need to be aware of these in order to prevent complications from arising.

Figures released from Sport England for 2016/17, show that 6 in 10 adults are physically active (27.1 million).[2] This is a huge increase from 2013/14, where data showed that approximately 15.6 million adults played sport at least once a week.[3] This wave of popularity is believed to be largely due to the combination of a fast-paced modern lifestyle and an increased awareness of the importance of health. As a result, more and more people are taking up sport and exercise to stay in shape and relieve stress.1

Regardless of age, there is sound scientific evidence that being physically active can help individuals to lead healthier lives. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of many chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, cancer, obesity, mental health problems and musculoskeletal conditions.[4] In fact, research into the costs of physical inactivity showed that NHS providers in England spent more than £900m in 2009/10 treating people with diseases that could have been prevented if more people were physically active.[5]

Exercise is undeniably good for the wellbeing of our bodies and minds, but certain forms can increase the risk of poor oral health. The changes that occur in the mouth during high-intensity or prolonged exercise can lower the production of saliva, thus enabling cavity-causing bacteria to reproduce more quickly. Studies have revealed a higher prevalence of certain dental lesions amongst athletes who train frequently, showing a positive relationship between the time devoted to training and the exposure to oral health risks.[6]

Elite sportsmen and women are at the highest risk, with many suffering from a large number of caries, dental erosion and periodontal disease. This is thought to be due to several factors, including oral dehydration, exercise-induced immune suppression, the nutritional demands of physical exercise, lack of awareness, negative health behaviours and lack of prioritisation.[7]

When the salivary flow or amount is reduced during sporting activities, the protective properties of saliva are impaired. These include re-mineralisation effects, as well as non-specific and specific antimicrobial activity, which is also important in protecting against periodontal disease. The diminished flow reduces the capacity to clear and neutralise dietary acids in the mouth, contributing to erosive lesions in some individuals.[8] Prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise are also known to induce an overproduction of reactive species, which can result in oxidative damage to macromolecules and tissues.[9] This results in a temporary depression of various aspects of immune function (for example, neutrophil respiratory burst, lymphocyte proliferation, monocyte antigen presentation) and if intense training is prolonged, it can result in longer lasting immune dysfunction.[10]

In addition, training and performance is often supported by carbohydrate-containing sports drinks or gels which are a major determinant of poor oral health. Sports drinks generally contain high levels of sugars and acids, which can contribute to an increase in dental caries and erosion but also to general health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.[11] Furthermore, the pro-inflammatory effects of a high carbohydrate intake might also increase the risk of periodontal disease.7

Up until recent times, little emphasis has been placed upon the link between oral health and sport, although several pertinent studies have concentrated on elite athletes and oral repercussions. The dental professional must be aware that active patients of all abilities are susceptible to risks aggravating certain hard and soft tissue lesions. They must appreciate the interaction between dental problems and sporting performance and be able to provide suitable treatment plans adapted to their individual needs.

Oral diseases are preventable and simple interventions can have a dramatic impact on an individual’s oral health. Recommending effective adjuncts, such as the UK’s No. 1 selling rubber interdental brushes – the Wisdom Clean Between Interdental Brushes – can help individuals maintain optimum oral hygiene. Clinically proven to reduce gingival disease,[12],[13] the wire-free brushes slide easily between the teeth for a gentle yet highly effective clean.

The number of dental patients involved in sport is increasing. However, despite the pursuit of optimal physical and mental wellbeing, oral health is often undervalued. In comparison to their sedentary counterparts, people who regularly exercise may be predisposed to a number of potential oral health risk factors. Making patients aware of the importance of maintaining optimal oral hygiene will help the sporting patient achieve their potential and maximise their overall health and wellbeing.


To find out more, please visit www.wisdomtoothbrushes.com or

call 01440 714800












[1] Budd SC, Egea JC. The popularity and benefits of sport and exercise: implications in dentistry. In: Sport and Oral Health. Springer, Cham.

[2] Sport England. Active Lives Adult Survey May16/17 Report. Published online 22 October 2017: https://www.sportengland.org/research/active-lives-survey/ [Accessed 12th December 2017].

[3] Sport England: Active People Survey 7 Q3-8 Q2 Sport England, 2013-2014.

[4] Sport England. Sport and Health. Available online: https://www.sportengland.org/research/benefits-of-sport/health-and-benefits-of-sport/ [Accessed 12th December 2017].

[5] Sport England. Economic costs of inactivity. Available online: https://www.sportengland.org/research/benefits-of-sport/health-and-benefits-of-sport/ [Accessed 13th December 2017].

[6] Budd SC, Egea JC. Oral health risk factor: cumulative training and high-intensity sessions. In: Sport and Oral Health. Springer, Cham.

[7] Needleman I, et al. Oral health and elite sport performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:3-6.

[8] Mulic A, Tveit AB, Songe D, Sivertsen H, Skaare AB. Dental erosive wear and salivary flow rate in physically active young adults. BMC Oral Health 2012;12:1-8.

[9] Sureda A, et al. Polyphenols: well beyond the antioxidant capacity: polyphenol supplementation and exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology 2014;15(4).

[10] Yang J, et al. Porphyromonas gingivalis infection reduces regulatory T cells in infected atherosclerosis patients. PLOS one 2014;9:1-8.

[11] Coe J. Energy or taste: why are teenagers drinking sports drinks? British Dental Journal 2016;221:124-125.

[12] Yost et al., Interproximal gingivitis and plaque reduction by four interdental products. J Clin Dent. 2006;17(3):79-83.

[13] Prof. Dr. Petra Ratka-Krüger et al., Clinical trial of a metal-free interdental brush. University Medical Centre Freiburg, Germany. Pub Nov 2010.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.