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Athletes: Follow These Tips to Keep Your Teeth in Top Health

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Participating in a sport can be great for your health. However, there are some aspects of athletics that may actually be hazardous to certain parts of your body—namely your teeth and gums. To ensure that your athletic participation does not leave you with tooth decay, fractured teeth, or a nasty case of gum disease, follow these tips.

Use sports drinks judiciously.

Sports drinks can be good for replacing lost electrolytes and carbohydrates after a hard workout. However, these drinks contain a lot of sugar, and drinking them too often can contribute to tooth decay. The sugar feeds oral bacteria that secrete acids that slowly break down your tooth enamel. The sugar also feeds the oral bacteria that cause gum disease.

Try to stick to water during everyday practices and light workouts and use drink sports drinks only when you really need them after an intense effort. When you do drink sports drinks, rinse your mouth out with a sip of water afterward so the sugars don't remain on your teeth for hours on end.

Try not to clench your teeth.

Many athletes tend to clench their jaws together when putting forth a hard effort. Runners may do this when closing in on the competition at the end of a race, and soccer players tend to do this when going in for the goal. While you're at practice, pay attention to your jaw action and see when you notice yourself clenching. Then, start reminding yourself to relax your jaw at these times. Over time, clenching your jaw will become less of a habit—which is important, since clenching can lead to enamel damage, jaw stiffness, and even fractured teeth.

Wear the right mouth guard.

If you participate in a contact sport like football or wrestling, never go without your mouth guard, even during practice. Accidents happen when you least expect it, and even a gentle tackle or hold could knock a tooth out of your mouth if your opponent comes in at the wrong angle.

While sporting-goods stores and drug stores do sell mouth guards that will work in a pinch, it's really best to visit your dentist and get fitted for a specialized mouth guard. This will ensure the guard does not put excess pressure on any of your teeth, and this is important when you're a dedicated athlete who spends several hours a week wearing the mouth guard.

For more tips to ensure your athletic participation does not hurt your teeth or gums, speak with a dentist, such as one from Apollo Dental Center.