Do You Have ‘Runners Teeth’?

Bedford dentist, Dr David Nolte looks at why some people who run, complain of less than comfortable teeth.

Running is probably the UK’s number one exercise when it comes to keeping fit. It requires little more than a decent pair of trainers and somewhere to run.

Even in large cities, it isn’t unusual to see someone, water bottle in hand, pounding their way down the streets, almost oblivious to the busy shoppers around them.

Whilst sore and stiff muscles, and perhaps the odd sprained ankle, are some of the most common complaints from regular runners, one of the more unusual ones is that some complain of their teeth hurting when they run. This can make this type of physical activity a less than pleasant experience, and can be caused by a number of different factors that we will take a look at now.

Bruxism/teeth grinding

When we grind our teeth together, it is almost inevitable that they will become damaged if this is something that we do on a regular basis. It is widely thought that stress is a major cause of this, with many people grinding their teeth in their sleep, perhaps working off the stress of a busy and difficult day.

Although teeth grinding is less common when we are awake, it is not entirely uncommon in runners, or anyone going through significant physical exertion. If you run, think about when you come up to that tricky hill on your route, when you really have to push yourself to get up it as fast and hard as you can. The chances are, that when you do that, you may ‘grit’ your teeth together, grinding them as you push yourself to reach the very top.

Even when we run hard on the flat, perhaps sprinting or doing intervals,  we may well lock our teeth together. Even if we don’t actually grind them when we do this, the pounding of your feet on the pavement will reverberate through your teeth if they are locked together. This can cause some discomfort as our nerves in the teeth pick up the pounding sensation which is transferred via our feet.

Although this is a relatively common habit in runners, it can potentially also have a negative effect on performance. For the muscles to function to the best of their ability, the blood needs a regular supply of oxygen. This is more easily attained if you relax your jaw, allowing the oxygen to be breathed in more easily, and reducing potential damage and discomfort to your teeth as well.

Sensitive teeth

Unless you are a fair weather runner, the chances are that you will dress for running in most weather conditions, even when it is very cold. If you breathe in very cold air through the mouth, you may well find that your teeth are quite sensitive to the extremes of temperatures. This will be even more the case if the enamel surface of your teeth has become eroded, or if you have small cracks in your teeth. You could reduce any discomfort felt in this way, whilst running, by breathing through your nose; however, anyone who ‘pushes’ themselves when running is more likely to breathe through the mouth than in this way. If you find that this is a persistent problem for you when you run and if other treatments have failed, then you might wish to discuss the possible fitting of protective teeth veneers at The Dental Centre Bedford to reduce this uncomfortable sensation.

Sinus problems

One issue which may cause uncomfortable teeth when running, but is actually not due to any problems with the teeth themselves, is when you have sinus problems. Even non runners may sometimes feel that they have a toothache when it is actually the sinuses that are the cause. The sinuses are located near the upper rear teeth, and an infection, or inflammation, in this area can put pressure upon the teeth, causing a toothache. This is usually temporary and your GP or chemist should be able to recommend medication to help with the problem.

Other oral health issues

If none of the above are causes that are leading to your uncomfortable teeth when you run, then you may have other oral health issues such as gum disease. This can cause inflammation and painful gums which will be exacerbated as your feet pound against the pavement. Make sure that you avoid this, not only with good brushing and flossing at home, but also through seeing the hygienist for a regular scale and polish, every six months or so.

Whether you run or not, your oral health is important to us, and will help you to feel good about yourself too. The Dental Centre Bedford team is always happy to see new patients and you can contact us for an appointment on 01234 819868.