We all know that physical activity is good for us in many ways. It helps us stay healthy, live longer, and improves our mental health. But does exercise affect oral health as well? You bet it does. A report by the Journal of Dentistry showed that regular physical activity could improve dental health. Those who exercised regularly had more than fifty percent lower chances of developing periodontitis than those who led sedentary lives. This is just one example of the many benefits of exercise to oral health. Let’s dive into more detail.
How Does Exercise Affect Oral Health?
We all know that oral health affects our overall health. However, it also works the other way around. Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems are interrelated with our teeth. Therefore, there is a positive connection between exercising and oral health. Take into account that even though inhaling bacteria through open-mouthed breathing can contribute to periodontal disease, physical exercise can help battle it. Exercise also reduces inflammation and releases endorphins throughout the body.
The Link Between Oral Health and BMI
Those who maintain a lower BMI (body mass index) and get the recommended amount of exercise have a lower possibility of having gum disease. A study notes that those with a lower BMI also had fewer cavity-causing lesions. Other factors improve the overall results, including following a healthy diet low in refined sugars and high in fiber. This includes fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Exercise Can Reduce Your Risk of Developing Periodontitis
Periodontal disease, periodontitis, or more commonly known as gum disease, is a common side effect of poor oral hygiene. It can lead to:
- Pain while chewing
- If unattended, even the loss of teeth.
One of the main reasons most people develop periodontitis is plaque. However, plaque is not the only reason for the disease. Surprisingly, obesity is also identified as a risk factor. Too many fat cells can lead to increased inflammation and a weaker immune system. These factors can make an individual more predisposed to gum disease. This is where exercise comes in. Regular exercise will help lower and manage your weight and significantly lower your chances of developing gum disease.
Regular Exercise Reduces Inflammation
One of the main reasons people get gum disease is inflammation. While your gums are inflamed, more bacteria can build up over time and cause serious problems. Regular exercise affects oral health by helping prevent such issues because it reduces inflammation throughout the body. Regular exercise can reduce the formation of inflammation that is capable of causing problems and affecting your oral health. In addition, exercising regularly may also lead to the increased production of anti-inflammatory proteins. Exercising is helpful even for those already suffering from periodontitis, as they can reduce its total effect by exercising more frequently.
Stress Can Affect Oral Health
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which improve your mood and give you a rush of energy through dopamine and serotonin. When you exercise regularly and have a healthy lifestyle, your feelings of depression decline. Think of it this way – the more serotonin released into your body after a workout, the less cortisol will make you feel stressed. Cortisol and high amounts of stress can affect your oral health in a big way. Stress and anxiety cause us to grind our teeth, which damages the enamel. The constant grinding of teeth wears down the enamel quickly, leading to chipping and nerve damage.
It Works the Other Way Around Too
We know that exercise can benefit oral health, but taking care of your teeth can help protect your heart and your ability to stay fit and active. The European Society of Cardiology study found that brushing teeth frequently is linked to a lower risk of heart failure. One likely reason is that frequent brushing reduces the number of bacteria collecting in the pockets between teeth and gums and keeps the bacteria away from the bloodstream.
Post-Workout Sugar Cravings
After a hard workout, you might feel like you want to eat everything that meets your eye. Your body is looking for carbohydrates as a quick source of energy. However, always try to control sugar cravings after a workout. Thus, avoid those processed, sugary foods and find natural replacements for your cravings. A great idea is to prepare a healthy snack ahead of time. This way, it will be there after your workout, and you will not be tempted to reach for simple carbs that have very few benefits and will negatively affect your oral health. So to beat those sugar cravings, go for a fruit snack or a raw protein bar that is rich in fiber and will fill you up in a healthy way.
Can Exercise Affect Oral Health Negatively?
There are numerous benefits of exercise for oral health. However, athletes who go through intensive training might want to take a look at a Scandinavian study. It shows that intense training can contribute to oral health issues. These include cavities due to exercise-induced enamel erosion. What causes the enamel weakness in athletes is mainly:
- Drinking acidic sports drinks
- Breathing with the mouth open during exercise
Athletes can offset these effects by choosing a water-electrolyte solution and trying to breathe with their mouths closed—as much as possible. Open-mouthed breathing in exercise can also cause dry mouth problems. As saliva helps prevent tooth decay, without it, you are more at risk for periodontal disease as well as exercise-induced enamel erosion.
Protective Measures When Exercising
If you are an athlete or endure intense workouts, consider taking basic measures to protect your teeth. Some of these measures are:
- Wearing a mouth guard during sports as protection from injuries. Doing so will prevent you from wondering does exercise affect oral health negatively, as you’ll combat the negative effects.
- Drinking water instead of sports drinks. You can minimize your body’s need for electrolytes in sports drinks by drinking water as soon as you feel thirsty.
- If mouth breathing is a common issue for you, practice breathing through your nose during exercise as much as possible.