woman in gym weightlifting While this is something that you may not think about, there are several reasons that strenuous exercise and teeth do not go together well.  Especially when it comes to activities like weightlifting, athletes need to take precautions so that no permanent damage occurs. There is a definite relationship between strenuous exercise and teeth; especially the health of your teeth.

When a person picks up a heavy weight, they end up clenching down on their teeth, which is the natural response of the body.  If this cycle is repeated over and over, tooth enamel can become worn down. This action is similar to a TMD symptom that I have discussed in the past, which is nighttime bruxism.

Many weightlifters use their chest as a brace and/or stopping point when they lift. Air gets trapped in their lungs when they pause and their throat is partially closed when they exhale. Simultaneously, they clench their jaws hard when doing this, which forces the top of the lower jaw up and back, causing the disc within the joint to be pushed forward. At first, it may be barely noticeable as it is only slight pain and or clicking noise.  After a while though, this will turn into irreversible damage done to the disc.

Over time, this clenching and grinding will alter your occlusion, eventually spiraling into a TMJ disorder.  Alternatively, there may have been an underlying disorder present, and then daytime clenching and nighttime bruxism will exacerbate the condition.  This restorative dentist in Kennesaw explores the common symptoms that may follow include headaches, facial pain, ear pain, tinnitus, eye pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, dizziness/vertigo, and photophobia among other things.

Because so many athletes suffer from this, it is common that they will wear a protective mouthguard during their workouts.  This protects their teeth and enamel if they are clenching down.  If they DO have an underlying TMJ disorder already, this mouthguard will NOT “cure” their nighttime bruxism.  That would be a different strenuous exercise and teeth issue and will need to be addressed separately.

In addition to wearing a mouthguard, some tips to prevent clenching during weightlifting are as follows:

  • Do your lifting in front of a mirror so that you can pay attention to see if you are clenching or not – you will be able to see tension in your face
  • Massage your masseter muscles in between sets and try to relax your face/mouth
  • Try to avoid caffeine prior to your workout, as this leads to additional clenching

US Power lifter Robert Herbst had a back molar explode due to the pressure he was exerting during his lifts.  He was clenching his teeth together as he was picking up several hundred pounds of weight.  He ended up needing a bone graft and an implant, after the emergency dentist Unionville removed tooth fragments from his mouth. This is one of the more well known cases portraying the relationship between strenuous exercise and teeth.

Scuba divers are another group of athletes that experience TMD.  Because they are continuously biting down on the breathing apparatus, learn this here now and learn how this can put stress on the jaw and cause muscle spasms and headaches when they dive.

Many think that the water pressure is the culprit, but really an underlying TMJ disorder is present.

Something else we don’t think about is the reduction in saliva that is caused by exercise.  Saliva protects the teeth and gums, and a lack of it can lead to tooth decay eventually.  Most athletes breathe through their mouth, which can dry up the saliva.  Try to practice nose breathing during exercise.

According to this link http://dugasdental.com, it is also helpful if you brush your teeth prior to your workout, and avoid a lot of the sugary sports energy drinks that are out there.  Consuming these types of beverages while working out leaves sugary residue in the mouth, leading to cavities and tooth decay.  If you are going to drink these during your workout, it is recommended that you rinse your mouth out with water so that the sugar doesn’t just sit in your mouth the whole time.  Another option is to chew sugar-free gum during your workout, which can aid in saliva production.
Still, the best option for a workout drink is plain old regular water or coconut water.  These will keep you hydrated without the sugar and problems to follow.

For more information on daytime clenching, nighttime bruxism, the relationship between strenuous exercise and teeth, or anything else mentioned above, please give our office a call at (586) 573-0438.

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