Recently, I had a disappointing visit to my dentist. “Why so glum” you ask? Well, he found three cavities (tiny ones but still).
Honestly, I’ve never had the toughest chompers—even as a kid I struggled with cavities whereas, my brother could chew on stones, never brush his teeth, and still never get a single cavity. But, I digress.
Because of my dental vulnerability, I am pretty diligent with my teeth so when this latest disappointment happened, I was really unhappy and I think it showed.
My hygienist (Daniella) came in and promptly began chatting me up about the problem. “Do you brush?” (yup). “How often?” (usually three times a day) “How about flossing?” (ok, you got me there).
Even with my spotty flossing, Daniella said I shouldn’t be having the trouble I’m having. She paused. And then a light bulb went on over her head (maybe it was the dentist’s lamp?) and we had the following conversation.
Daniella: “Are you running a lot?” (she knows I am a runner)
Me: “Yes, I’m running a lot. Way more miles than ever, actually”
Daniella: “Hmmm …and do you breathe through your mouth, or your nose?”
Me: “I’ve tried to breathe through my nose but I can’t most of the time so, I guess that means I breathe through my mouth.”
Daniella: “And do you drink a lot of sports drinks like Gatorade?”
Me: “Not really. I used to but I mostly stick with water now.”
Then Daniella explained to me that many of the “hardcore” runners she knows (I love that she called me that) have the same problems I have with their teeth. She said that sports drinks are really hard on teeth—especially when you drink them before or during your runs so she was happy I wasn’t drinking those (here’s a related article that claims sports drinks are harder than Coke on your teeth).
But, even without the sports drinks, I was experiencing worse-than-average tooth decay. The culprit? Breathing through my mouth. Daniella explained that when you run great distances with your mouth open, it can dry your teeth out and, without the protection we get from saliva, any bacteria we have in our mouths can get to work on destroying our teeth.
As I struggled with the irony that my healthy habit was contributing to unhealthy teeth, Daniella laid out a plan of attack for me:
- Brush teeth before running (this part didn’t surprise me!).
- Swish/gargle with “weekly strength” (not daily strength) mouthwash. I was told that the weekly product has 0.2% of the active ingredient compared to 0.05% in the daily version. In other words, it is stronger and protects better.
- After running, swish with mouthwash again.
The strategy behind this plan is to:
- Remove as much decay causing bacteria as possible before running,
- Coat the teeth with a protectant, and
- Follow up with more brushing and swishing as soon as you can after running.
I am hoping that following this regime will make my next visit to the dentist a more positive one.
How about you? Have you experienced this problem?