5 Bad Oral Habits that Athletes Need to Kick

Poor oral habits are bad for you, no matter which way you put it. But if you are an athlete, having poor oral health can not only affect your lifestyle—but it can also affect your performance as an athlete as well. For instance, if you develop dental problems due to poor oral hygiene, you are much more likely to miss practice times and games to go to the dentist.

Not only that, but you are more susceptible to severe tooth problems in the event of a facial sports injury. If your teeth are weak, you may be much more susceptible to losing your permanent teeth if you sustain impact to the face.

To avoid these consequences, be proactive in improving your oral health—and to do that, you must kick these bad oral habits ASAP.

  1. Not wearing a mouthguard

Mouthguards are designed to protect your teeth in a sports injury, particularly a heavy impact on the head. Some sports require players to wear a mouthguard at all times, while others do not but should. So whether your sports require you to wear a mouthguard, make it a habit to do so (as long as it makes sense)—even during practice times. You never know when your football mouthpiece will save you from losing one or two permanent teeth.

  1. Drinking sugary sports drinks

Most sports drinks contain a lot of sugar because this ingredient gives the body an instant energy boost, which can help improve your athletic performance. However, sugary sports drinks are only recommended for people engaging in high-intensity exercise that lasts an hour or more. But even then, the sugar in such beverages is not ideal for one’s oral health.

This is because sugar produces an acid that wears away at the tooth’s hard outer shell called the enamel. When this happens, the tooth becomes more susceptible to dental issues, most notably, cavities. With that in mind, it is highly advisable to stick to plain water instead of chugging sugary sports drinks after a workout. Alternatively, choose sports drinks that contain no sugar or create your own sugar-free concoction instead.

  1. Neglecting oral hygiene

Having poor oral hygiene is bad for everyone, but it may have worse effects on athletes. This is because poor oral hygiene can result in weaker teeth and gums that are more susceptible to injury and disease. If an athlete develops, say, diseased gums, they may not be able to perform at their best because of the pain and repeated dentist visits.

Furthermore, having weaker teeth also puts athletes at a higher risk for tooth loss in a sports injury. Not only will this be extremely painful (which can lead to missed games or practice), but it can also result in ineffective mastication, another problem in and of itself.

If you don’t want to put yourself at risk of dental problems, make it a habit to brush your teeth at least twice a day. More than that, be sure to floss and rinse your mouth with mouthwash at least once a day, ideally before going to bed.

  1. Constantly eating sports bars

Like sports drinks, sports bars are formulated to give athletes a quick boost of energy. This means that sports bars also contain a lot of sugar, which can wear away at the enamel of the teeth. Not only that, but the ingredients in sports bars can stick to the teeth, and the longer they are there, the worse damage they can do to one’s oral health.

Sports bars may be delicious and contain a good amount of protein, but they are not ideal if you want to protect your teeth from cavities. Instead of munching down on these bars, choose low-sugar alternatives instead, such as fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, whole-grain chips, and more.

  1. Smoking

Smoking does not do the body any good. It can lead to all sorts of health issues, including shortness of breath, diabetes, heart disease, and lung cancer, among many others. But on top of that, smoking can also do a number on your oral health, making your teeth and gums more susceptible to disease.

If you need help to stop smoking, approach your doctor or sign yourself up for smoking cessation therapy.

Oral health affects the entire body, which means athletes need to take care of their teeth and gums to maintain good athletic performance. So, if you are guilty of one or more of these habits, it’s high time to kick them to the curb.

By Matthew M. Gable

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