Friday, May 20, 2011

Are Elite Triathletes Compromising Their Oral Health?

Samantha Warriner of New Zealand leads the field up the hill in the bike leg during the Elite Women's division of the 2009 Gold Coast ITU Triathlon World Championships on September 13, 2009 in Gold Coast, Australia

Yes, because often they are consuming caries producing and erosive sports drinks. Here is the paper's abstract.
Elite athletes follow demanding training regimes to achieve optimal performance. Training incorporates strategies which coincide with risk factors for dental caries and erosion. The important role of a disease-free oral cavity for peak performance is often overlooked and oral health may be compromised. This initial exploratory study aimed to identify risk factors for dental caries and erosion in elite triathletes. Questionnaires regarding training, diet and oral health were distributed to a sample of elite triathletes in New Zealand. A further sample of 10 athletes was randomly selected from the Dunedin triathlon club to participate in a clinical oral examination. Sports drinks were consumed by 83.9% of the triathletes while training; for 48.4% consumption of both sports drinks and water was described as ‘little sips often, from a bottle'. Eating during training sessions was reported by 93.5% of participants; of those 62.1% ate only during cycling training. Only 3.2% perceived training as high risk to oral health. All clinical examination cases were assessed as high risk for developing caries. The diet of elite triathletes is consistent with a high risk profile for caries and erosion. Future research should be aimed at oral health promotion programs for the athletes, coaches and oral-health providers.
Dentistry has known for some time the detriments to oral health by popular sports and energy drinks

But, what about the elite endurance athletes who need the carbohydrates and the electrolytes, but are limited in their ability to consume them? If the reader has ever run, swam or cycled for a protracted period of time, you understand. Storage, availability, and limited time to consume the required nutrients and water are issues that all come to mind.

These elite athletes will have to be constantly on guard for the deleterious affects of these drinks on their oral health. Awareness programs, dental protocols and other products will need to be developed.

And, awareness for the recreational long distance runner/cyclist and triathlete is necessary.

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