5 Ways Runners Are Damaging Their Teeth

Gentle Dental

Healthy group of people jogging on track in park.

Running offers a number of benefits which can improve our health and mental outlook. At the same time, it can make us more vulnerable to specific risks that can actually compromise our health.

Research indicates that too much running can have a negative impact on our hormone levels and immune systems. At the same time, running can indirectly leave us more vulnerable to tooth decay. If you are a runner, here are some ways you might be jeopardizing your oral health.

Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Run?

If you notice dental pain when running, it could be a sign that the enamel on your teeth has worn down leaving the underlying dentin exposed. When this occurs, wind and cold drinks can trigger sensitivity as you run. While the reasons for enamel erosion can vary, runners commonly experience problems due the following:

Drinking sports drinks

Although sports drinks can rehydrate runners after trying workouts and competitions, they also wreak havoc on teeth. According to a study presented at the International Association for Dental Research, consumption of sugary sports beverages can lead to erosive tooth wear. During their study, researchers found that sports drinks soften dentin, leaving teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and tooth decay. Reduce your risk by drinking water or other types of less acidic beverages.


Because they need ample amounts of oxygen to fuel their muscles, runners tend to breathe through the mouth more than most people. Unfortunately, this can become habitual, causing the mouth to dry out and become a more habitable environment for cavity-causing bacteria. You can reduce problems by drinking plenty of water and focusing on breathing through the nose as much as possible.

Damaging existing dental work

Dense protein bars, sticky chews and crunchy foods can damage fillings and crowns. If you’ve had a lot of dental work, use caution when chewing problematic foods. Avoid hard nuts and dense processed foods and look for softer natural snacks that are easy on your stomach and teeth.

Using teeth as tools

During a run or race, it’s common for runners to open power bars and snacks using their teeth. Unfortunately, according to the American Dental Association, this is a common cause of tooth fractures. Avoid problems by packaging snacks in easy-to-open zip-lock bags you can pull open with minimal effort.

Grinding teeth

Serious runners commonly clench their jaws and grind their teeth at night or during tough speed sessions. Over time, this can wear down tooth enamel and lead to painful temporomandibular joint disorder. If you notice a problem, focus on relaxing your face while you are training or in competition. If your problems occur at night, your dentist can create a custom mouth guard to keep you from damaging your teeth while sleeping.

According to research appearing in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, runners demonstrate significantly higher tooth erosion compared to non-athletes. If you are a runner, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups, so your dentist can look for signs of tooth decay or worn-down enamel. By prioritizing your dental health, you can catch and treat minor issues before they evolve into serious, expensive problems.