Dear Dr. H,
I am a competitive fitness model. I eat very healthy and I work out. I actually thought I was the epitome of healthy. However, I just found out that I have 10 cavities! ( TEN!) How can this be? I brush my teeth every day.
Not a tooth model
Dear Not a tooth model,
A 2013 study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at athletes who visited the dental clinic for Olympians at the 2012 London Games.
Oddly 55% of them had cavities, 45% had dental erosion, 76% had gingivitis, and 15% had serious periodontitis! And these people are truly the epitome of physical health.
It is also interesting to note that Michael Jordan had significant dental issues during the 1984 Olympics. His dental issues were severe enough that they could’ve kept him from playing in a game.
There are numerous reasons why athletes could have such bad teeth:
1. Athletes burn an enormous amount energy while exercising, so they eat and drink more frequently than the average person — and the more food that comes in contact with teeth, the greater the chance for tooth decay.
2. The type of food and drink that athletes consume often comes in the form of sports drinks, energy drinks and nutrition bars, which can wreak havoc on teeth. Note that Gatorade may actually erode teeth faster than soda.
3. Athletes often suffer from dehydration caused by extensive sweating. The lack of water in the body means less saliva in the mouth, and one major function of saliva that few people know about is to protect enamel on teeth.
4. Many people (not just athletes) grind their teeth during intense physical effort. It is possible athletes grind more because of the stress of playing at such a high level.
Please get your cavities filled, change your brushing and flossing habits to 3 times per day, and keep training!
Sincerely, Dr. H