Cyclists are increasingly suffering from cavities because of their dependence on “healthy” sports drinks, a dentist has warned ahead of the start of the sport’s biggest event, the Tour De France, this weekend.
Dr Tom Keppel, principal dentist at Keppel Advanced Dentistry in Sutton, said many of his patients who were serious cyclists were experiencing significant tooth decay and erosion to their teeth.
He said while most people understood the importance of hydration and a healthy diet, many were not aware that sports drinks had health risks.
He said: “Constantly taking little sips of sports drinks from a bottle bathes their teeth in sugar and gives their mouths no time to recover.
“Sports drinks, energy bars and gels contain from five to 12 teaspoons of sugar and dried fruit also has a very high concentration of sugar.”
Riders in the Tour De France, which this year begins in Utrecht in the Netherlands and covers 2,088 miles in 23 days, consume up to 9,000 calories a day, taking two or three pieces of race food such as energy bars, gels and electrolyte drinks per hour, followed by recovery shakes alongside normal food at night.
Dr Keppel added: “Tooth decay is always caused by sugar, so my advice is avoid sports drinks on a regular basis when you’re not competing – drink water instead, and choose energy bars that don’t contain sugar.”
A survey of athletes at the London Olympics in 2012 by a team from University College London found that athletes as a group had worse dental health than other people of a similar age.
Of the 302 athletes examined from 25 sports, 55 per cent had evidence of cavities, 45 per cent had tooth erosion and 76 per cent had gum disease. One in three said their oral health affected their quality of life, and one in five said it affected training or athletic performance.
Isotonic drinks are favoured by cyclists because they quickly replace fluids lost by sweating and supply a boost of carbohydrates. Drinks such as Boots Isotonic and Lucozade Sport have a glucose concentration of six to eight per cent.
Dr Keppel said: “When you have to have them, try and consume sports drinks as quickly as possible, and don’t swish them around the mouth. Also, colder drinks have a reduced erosive potential, although cyclists on long routes in the summer months won’t have the means to chill their drinks.”
British Journal of Sports Medicine 24 September 2013: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2013/09/24/bjsports-2013-092891.abstract
About Keppel Advanced Dentistry
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