Portrait of young attractive sportsman running outside.

Distance Running: Is Your Mouth Dry?


Even if you take great care of your teeth and have excellent oral hygiene, there are several things that are good for the rest of your body, but can actually harm your teeth. One of them includes exercise and strenuous activity – like running.

How Does Running Harm Your Teeth?

During high-intensity exercise, like running a marathon, your heart muscles contract more frequently and forcefully. This activity generates a need for more oxygen, causing you to breathe through your mouth. And while mouth-breathing seems pretty normal and mostly harmless, it can have lasting negative effects on your teeth.

In fact, the more you breathe through your mouth, the more susceptible your mouth becomes to accumulating “biofilm,” bacteria and other micro-organisms. These can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and oral diseases like gingivitis or periodontal disease. So, the harder you work, the faster you breathe – and the higher the risk of disease.

What Should We Do?

Well, we all have to breathe, and we need plenty of exercise to stay fit.  While we’re all susceptible to tooth decay, proper steps can help prevent it. Steps like brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, rinsing with the proper mouthwash, and routine professional cleanings.

It’s important to know about the added oral health complications that arise from certain types of exercise. They require additional awareness, however simple, to prevent further damage. For example, long distance running, like running a marathon, can result in decreased salivary production or xerostomia. The concentrations of various proteins, some of which have antiseptic qualities, can also drop due to rapid heavy breathing. The absence of these proteins creates a highly hospitable environment for biofilm, which can accumulate rapidly and cause serious tooth decay.

While this might sound intimidating, the solution is simple: increase your saliva output.  So if you’re planning on running a marathon, bring along a few slices of spearmint, cinnamon or fruit­ flavored chewing gums – sugar-free – and try to stay hydrated. Sugar-free gums like these have been shown to stimulate salivary flow rate and raise the pH level, which helps prevent decay. It also boosts the protein levels, helping your mouth fight bacteria naturally. So while you’re working out, do yourself a favor and keep those juices flowing – your mouth depends on it!

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