Top tips for marathon runners

April 25th, 2017

This month we saw thousands of runners hit the streets of London undertaking what, for many, will be a once in a lifetime challenge. After many weeks of training, sore legs and blisters, Sunday 23rd April was a day to celebrate success and enjoy the atmosphere and sense of achievement. But whilst the runners recover and show off their well-earned medals, it might be a good idea for them to consider their oral health, and ensure that they have been taking all the measures necessary to protect their teeth: whilst you might expect a runner’s legs to be the main victim of arduous training regimes, research has found that athletes are more susceptible than most to problems with their oral health.

There are many reasons why runners might suffer from problems with their oral health. A key cause of issues is that of energy drinks and gels which are often used as fuel during longer runs. With intense training regimes in the build up to an event, some runners struggle with their energy levels, and use these drinks and gels to help them keep going and meet their mileage targets. But whilst these energy boosts might be highly effective in terms of powering those legs for a little longer, they don’t do as much good for your teeth. Packed full of sugars and acid, these products can contribute towards tooth decay and erosion, eventually leading to the formation of cavities.

Another running based risk to oral health is that of our rate of breathing. As our cardiovascular systems are challenged through exertion, we breath more heavily. In order to keep going, our bodies need to take in oxygen to replace what we have expended through our exercise. Breathing heavily leads to a reduction in saliva flow, and our mouths dry out. Unfortunately, a dry mouth is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria: numerous problems and difficulties can arise from this.

Finally, runners can suffer with their oral health due to their level of commitment to their training regime. Being focused on the race coming up can mean that we are less aware of what is happening in the rest of our body. We might miss signs and symptoms that we’d normally notice more quickly, and might not visit our dentist with a problem as early as we might otherwise have done. This means that the problem has sometimes already escalated and more in depth support is needed.

But whilst it can seem that running places risks on our oral health, there are lots of steps you can take to try and keep your teeth, as well as your legs, in perfect form as you train:

  • Always brush your teeth twice a day, for two minutes at a time.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Avoid sugary food and drinks as much as possible. If you do need them, drink water as soon as possible afterwards.
  • After eating, wait a while before brushing your teeth. This prevents the enamel from being damaged, therefore protecting your teeth.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help with saliva production.

So, whilst your oral health might be far from the forefront of your mind when you’re clocking up those miles, it’s important to keep the condition of your whole body a priority. Ensuring that you look after yourself properly as you prepare for that big event will not only help you on race day, but will also mean that your oral health is protected in the longer term.

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