Bicycle Network: Health Matters
Beat the decay cycle - In dental health as in life, you are what you eat. Toni Jordan investigates the impact of cycling snacks on tooth decay
Beat the decay cycle
When Alan Tonkin of Beach Road Cycles began riding seriously in 1996 at the age of 49 he was in for a big surprise.
“I was amazed that the condition of my teeth deteriorated so quickly”, Tonkin says.
Alan, a member of Audax, loved long-distance cycling, and found sucking on barley sugar was a great way to boost energy levels during a ride. But was this connected to his teeth problems? Definitely, says an unidentified sports dentist. (Because he’s a dentist, we can’t show you his name in this magazine – let’s call him Rob).
“Obviously the two biggest issues for cyclists are fluid replacement and energy replacement,” says Rob. “If you get dehydrated, salivary flow diminishes. When you combine low saliva levels with prolonged exposure to sugar in a situation where there are no opportunities to clean your teeth well, you can certainly have some problems.”
Another problem is teeth grinding. It’s common for cyclists to literally ‘grit their teeth’ going up a big hill. Tyler Hamilton, Olympic Gold Medal winner and Tour de France competitor, reports on his website, tylerhamilton.com, that he needed to have 11 teeth capped because of his “bad habit of taking out pain and stress on the old chompers”. If you notice yourself doing this, tell your dentist.
Rob the dentist points out this doesn’t mean that cycling is necessarily the cause of teeth trouble.“Generally, decay levels are high in people under 20, and also in people over 60. In older people, the root of the tooth becomes more exposed. The decay rate increases because more of the tooth is exposed to decay,” says Rob. So age and general dental hygiene also have a role in teeth problems.
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