Updated: 1/28/2020 When someone says the word exercise, your reaction may go one of two ways. You could either focus on the benefits of exercising, or you might strike a…

Understanding the Connection Between Exercise and Dental Health

Updated: 1/28/2020

When someone says the word exercise, your reaction may go one of two ways. You could either focus on the benefits of exercising, or you might strike a face that closely resembles Grumpy Cat.

The topic is about as controversial as it gets—either you love it or you hate it. But the truth is that exercise has both upsides and downsides. We’ll go through a few of both here:

Upsides to Exercising

    • Prevents the risk of most diseases
    • Strengthens your immune system and boosts energy
    • Boosts mental health
    • Improves defense against diabetes
    • Reduces risk of gum disease
        • Healthy eating also helps

Downsides to Exercising

    • Teeth: the main downside to exercise is within the mouth. Running (along with other exercise routines) tends to dry up the mouth as you breathe. This can cause:
        • Tooth decay and cavities
        • Chemical change in your saliva, which is very harmful to your oral health
        • Bad breath
        • Chapped lips
        • Sore throat
        • Social issues—all of the above are less than pleasant and can lead to uncomfortable situations with colleagues. Nobody wants to end up with a nickname like “Bad Breath Bob”

Does this mean that you don’t have to exercise, or that it’s bad to exercise? The short answer is no. While there is a connection between exercise and dental health that can cause oral health problems, it’s still important to stay in shape and be healthy. Here are some ways to prevent tooth decay from exercise:

    • Properly brush and floss daily. We’ve all been there—face to face with the harsh truth as your dentist asks, “Have you been flossing regularly?” They don’t need an answer from you; they can read it in your gums. Contrary to popular belief, flossing and brushing regularly really does help. It might just save you from your next cavity.
    • Maintain regular visits to the dentist—trust me, not all of them are as distracted as the one from Finding Nemo. They want your teeth to be healthy…it’s kind of their job.
    • Get fluoride treatments to strengthen your enamel. Not only is it good for your teeth, but it tastes like bubblegum!
    • Follow these steps to prevent dry mouth:
        • Sip water consistently throughout the day
        • Avoid caffeine – it can also dry out the mouth
        • Don’t smoke or drink
        • Suck or chew on sugar-free candies
        • Use fluoride mouthwashes and toothpaste – cavity-fighting mouthwash works best (normal mouthwash can actually make the problem worse)

Other Important Tips to Know

Here are some common questions asked about exercise in general – especially in the colder months:

    • Is it okay to exercise if I’m sick? Yes and no.
        • It’s okay if…
          • Your symptoms are “above the neck”—meaning:  a head cold, runny nose, sore throat, etc.
        • It’s NOT okay if…
          • Your symptoms are “below the neck”—such as: chest congestion, a hacking cough, upset stomach, fever, etc.

Need some tips for making exercise a habit (to all you Grumpy Cats out there)? Here are a few:

    • Do something you enjoy!
    • Have a buddy.
    • Reward yourself! Let’s avoid being counterproductive and skip the sweets; try buying yourself a small gift.

No matter if you’re an exercise enthusiast or far from it, keeping yourself aware of things that could damage your well-being is a good move.

What are some ways you stay motivated to exercise and protect your oral health?

Katie is 1Dental’s copywriter and social media marketer. She aims to promote dental health through new blog posts heavily researched and sourced by topic and social media updates and outreach. Katie has completed her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. You’ll find her posting regularly on 1Dental’s social pages: Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.

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