Young people running along beach boardwalk

You may have taken up running because you thought it was healthy. Or maybe you wanted to look better. Running can accomplish both these goals, but if you’re not careful, it might actually backfire.

Some runners’ habits can be so damaging to their teeth that they can end up suffering both in terms of their health and their appearance so that they need reconstructive dentistry. Here are the six pitfalls of running to watch out for.

Pitfall #1: Sugar Rushing

When you’re running, you need fuel, right? And what better way to get fuel on the go than with a quick burst of sugar? That may be good for your speed, but it may not be good for your teeth.

When you eat sugar, it doesn’t just fuel you, it fuels the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce acids that eat away at the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

You don’t have to give up sugar-based fuels altogether, but be smarter with them. First, switch from hard and sticky forms to things that dissolve quickly and easily. These are better anyway, right? Then follow-up with a drink of water. The faster you rinse your mouth of all the sugary residue, the less damage will be done. Besides, this means that those sneaky bacteria won’t be stealing your fuel!

Pitfall #2: Acidic Sports Drinks

Yeah, you’re sweating. Yeah, you need hydration. No, you shouldn’t guzzle sports drinks on the run.

Sports drinks are among the most acidic beverages out there. Most of them are classified as erosive or extremely erosive by the American Dental Association (ADA). They’re as acidic as sodas–or worse!

Avoid the temptation to drink these while you’re running. Stick to water on the trail. Then, when you finish a run, you can down one if you find it helps. But don’t forget to follow up with a water rinse to get it off your teeth.

Pitfall #3: Chewy Sports Bars

Chewy, hard, sticky sports bars just aren’t good for your teeth. They can be harder than toffees, and that means that they have the potential to seriously damage any dental work you have. They can dislodge fillings, crowns, or other restorations.

And on top of that, the sticky bars cling to your teeth. Even if you think you’ve rinsed out the sugar, there are probably still parts of it there, fueling bacteria and leading to decay. It’s best to avoid these things altogether.

Pitfall #4: Dehydration

All the above pitfalls are even worse when you are dehydrated on your run. Saliva is your body’s natural protection for your teeth. It kills oral bacteria, remineralizes your teeth, and neutralizes acid.

But when you’re dehydrated, it can’t do any of that. Your saliva levels will drop, and what remains will be acidic, potentially accelerating damage to your teeth.

To avoid this, make sure you stay hydrated. Sometimes, it’s possible to experience localized dehydration because you’re breathing through your mouth. Try to limit mouth breathing, if you can. If you need to use mouth breathing, try to keep your mouth moist. Rinse frequently with water. Some people also find that chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol can help.

Pitfall #5: Opening Packets and Bottles with Teeth

When you can’t slow down to use both hands to open a packet or bottle, you can risk damaging your teeth. This is a job your teeth just weren’t meant for, and using them in this way can be very damaging. You can end up chipping your teeth so that you might need porcelain veneers or BioClear to restore the appearance of your teeth.

Just take the time to slow down and use your hands as you’re meant to.

Pitfall #6: Grinding Teeth During a Workout

Your jaw is an essential component of your musculoskeletal system. It helps stabilize your core and maintain balance so you can maximize your strength and speed. To achieve this, you close your jaw tight to better utilize your muscles.

Unfortunately, many people do more than just closing the jaw tight: they grind their teeth. Grinding your teeth during workouts is a sign that you either have a bite problem or you’re working too hard. If you want to keep working at this level, have a dentist check out your bite.

Make Running Good for You

If you follow the above tips, you can make sure that your running is as healthy a habit as you want it to be.

If you are looking for an Orange County dentist to help you maintain a tooth-healthy lifestyle, please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.