For optimal athletic performance, an athlete requires good oral health to reduce the risk of oral pain, inflammation, and infection and thereby minimize the use of analgesics and antimicrobial agents. Increased intake, frequency, and dental contact time of carbohydrate-rich foods, sports nutrition products, and acidic carbohydrate-containing sports and energy drinks may contribute to risks of dental erosion, caries, and inflammatory periodontal conditions in the athlete, especially when he or she also exhibits dehydration and poor oral hygiene habits. Examining the athlete before he or she begins participating in a sport allows the dental care provider to determine the patient's existing oral health, hygiene, and susceptibility to risk factors for erosion, caries, and inflammatory periodontal disease. This oral profile, in conjunction with the individual athlete's dietary needs, can be used to establish a treatment and preventive program, including oral health education. Good oral hygiene practices and application of topical fluoride, especially via fluoridated toothpastes and topical fluoride varnishes, must be available to the athlete. Rinsing with water or a neutral beverage after exposure to carbohydrates or acidic sports nutrition products may reduce carbohydrate contact time and bring oral pH levels back to neutral more quickly, reducing the risk of caries and erosion. Finally, the dentist should encourage the athlete to consult with an experienced sports dietitian to ensure that principles of sports nutrition are being appropriately applied for the type, frequency, and duration of exercise in consideration of the individual's oral health needs.
Keywords: carbohydrate; caries; dental erosion; diet; sports nutrition.