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Workout Distractions: What Your Teeth Are Telling You About Your Workout


You’d think pro athletes would be healthier than the average adult, but they actually tend to have surprisingly high rates of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral issues, according to a recent review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Here are three signs that your exercise routine may be messing with your dental health.

If Your Teeth Feel Extra-Sensitive
You may want to consider taking your workout inside. Breathing in cold air during your run or bike ride can increase the sensitivity of your teeth—especially when combined with the increased circulation that occurs during exercise, says Joseph Banker, a cosmetic dentist based in Westfield, NJ. If you prefer sweating outdoors, wear a scarf or balaclava over your mouth and breathe through it as you work out. Also smart, says Banker: using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.

RELATED: 11 Things Your Mouth Can Tell You About Your Health

If You Keep Getting Cavities
How you’re rehydrating post-workout may be to blame, not the pre-Halloween candy, um, testing you’ve been doing, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine study. Athletes tend to consume more sports drinks than non-exercisers, and since these beverages are acidic, they can wear away enamel. (High-carb diets, which many athletes adhere to, can also promote bacteria buildup.) Stick to just water when possible. And if you do need the extra electrolytes from a sports drink, Banker suggests downing it in one go (rather than sipping), then switching back to plain old H20.

If You Suffer from Dry Mouth
It’s not just because you’re breathing through your mouth. During exercise, your body actually suppresses its production of saliva (which can lead to bacteria buildup), and the spit it does create is more acidic (which can degrade enamel), explains Banker. Drink water throughout the day to make sure you’re well hydrated before you hit the gym, then sip or rinse with 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes to stave off dry mouth while you work out.