I get my teeth checked every six months. The last visit was an absolute disaster. I needed 4 or 5 fillings which I put down to my new overly officious dentist. This guy had an awesome reputation, was passionate about boating and often traveled to far flung exotic destinations. Many of those holiday snaps proudly lined the ceiling of his office. I’m always happy to do my bit. Knowing my hard earned cash was going to a good cause like tourism and fostering international relations took my mind off the exorbitant bill waiting for me at reception.
It had been 8 months since my last visit. Looking up from the chair I noticed yet another picture had been added up above. A snap of the Great Wall in all its glory that included my dentist smiling at the camera. Or was he smiling at me?
These days dentists use a fairly high tech gadget that seems to do all the work looking for tooth decay. A wonderful hand held device which emits a laser that when confronted with a nasty hole will discharge a high pitched screech. Unbelievably that bloody machine went off not once but twice! Each time I swear I could see my dentist grin beneath that mask of his as he mentally tackled complex arithmetic in his head. X + Y = new boat.
I questioned whether a faulty battery might be the cause of all that noise. He didn’t buy it. He did admit that 6 or 7 cavities over the last 18 months was a little on the high side. No kidding I thought. That’s more than I’ve had my entire life! He sent me on my way with a new appointment and doctor prescribed enamel hardening toothpaste.
That night, while running, I pondered my failing teeth and declining years. No one has better oral hygiene that I. I brush after every meal, never drink soda and rarely partake in the temptation of sweets, especially cheesecake. And then, like a bolt from the heavens …
Propping myself in front of Google I typed ‘running and cavities’ and waited. The first four search results were - Does running lead to worse oral health, can running ruin your teeth, running may damage your teeth and my favourite, great legs, gross teeth.
From what I’ve read it’s now accepted that frequent endurance running leads to a greater risk of shitty teeth. You’d think that all those energy drinks and sports bars were the cause but apparently not so. Just as well because I don’t do much of that. To blame is what they call ‘dry mouth’. As runners we breathe rapidly through our mouths and heavily too. As a result our mouths become dry, saliva production and flow decreases and the environment becomes much more alkaline. Excess alkalinity in saliva is not good and accelerates the erosion of enamel.
Solutions are hard to find. What seems to be commonly suggested are – talk to your dentist about dry mouth, brush then gargle mouth wash before running. Drink water and chew gum periodically during long runs and finally gargle with mouth wash again after running.
David Rudisha is the current Olympic and world record holder for the 800m. At the 2012 London Olympics this Kenyan giant won in a time of 1.40.91. At 6ft 3in (190cm) and 155lbs (70kg) Rudisha in full flight looks devastating. Commentators described his Olympic run as “The Greatest 800 Metre Race Ever”. The image above promotes a 1hr documentary about his life. The link to it can be found here. For the 800m Olympic final in London, check out the video below.