Running and Your Pearly Whites


Once again marathon season is upon us and the parks are full.   The leaves are turning beautiful shades of amber and arduous 18-20 mile training runs are being logged. As beautiful as autumn weather is, there is a fatigue that sets in when runs start to ratchet into double-digits. There is nothing more welcome than a gel break, or better yet, a Honey Stinger Chew feast!! It is miraculous how immediate the benefits of simple carbohydrates can be and what a fantastic second (or third, or fourth) wind it can give you. Unfortunately, it is not as beneficial for your teeth. Sports nutrition is high in glucose and carbs that are ideal for restoring the glycogen stores in your muscles, but far less than ideal for your teeth. Gels, bars, chews, and everything sweet at the check-out counter of your favorite local running store are not only good at fueling your quadriceps and hamstrings, but also the growth of harmful decay-causing dental bacteria.  At mile 10 when you're enjoying your favorite new peanut butter Gu, the bacteria that cause cavities are having a party in your mouth and multiplying like squirrels in Central Park.  See the article here on common dental hazards of running.


In an ideal world, endurance athletes would floss and brush immediately after taking sports nutrition.  However, I have yet to see a runner attend to their oral hygiene needs at a water fountain in Central Park.  Believe me, nothing would make me happier than seeing someone sweaty in spandex brushing their teeth at the southwest reservoir water fountain, but a girl can only dream.  When brushing and flossing are not super convenient, simply rinsing with water can help remove some of the sports nutrition left around the teeth and re-neutralize the pH in the mouth.  Even better than plain water, rinsing with fluoride is extremely beneficial at re-neutralizing the pH in the mouth and slowing down the growth of the prolific, harmful oral bacteria.  Rinsing with fluoride also aids in remineralization.  In other words, your teeth have the ability to heal themselves at the very beginning of the onset of a cavity.  Patients of Metropolitan Dental Care receive a travel-size ACT fluoride rinse in their hygiene bags.  These small fluoride rinses are extremely convenient during a long workout and can be easily stored in a pocket or fuel belt.  Your teeth work so hard for you every day.  Be kind to your mouth and rinse after your nutrition breaks!!  See the Sports Dental Hygiene section on our website:


Strength training is great for your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  Strength training for your masseters?  Not so much.  However, as intense, Type-A New Yorker's, many, many, many of us grind our teeth at night.  Your masseters are extremely powerful muscles, but they do not need strength training like your legs do.  Many people grind during the day without realizing it, but at night it can be even more deleterious.  You create far more damaging stress on your teeth nocturnally grinding than you ever would during normal daytime chewing function.  Often endurance athletes are more prone to the fixation of nighttime grinding.  If we can't get cardio in while we're sleeping, we'll figure out a way to flex some kind of muscle, right?  Is it good for our teeth, our TMJ's, or our masseters to grind?  Not so much.  Watch our patient video!

If you have any questions about how running and endurance athletics may be affecting your teeth, book an appointment to see us.  Happy running and we look forward to seeing you at a finish line soon!!


Nicole Mermet, DMD

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