If your teeth ache and hurt during or after a run, then you’re not alone. The first search items that pop up in Google when inputting the words “running” and “teeth” will provide prompts like: “Why do my bottom teeth hurt when I run?” or “Why do my teeth tingle when I run?” or “Mouth guards for running.” Others ask whether or not running might actually be beneficial to the teeth. We’re going to answer a few of these questions to put your minds — and your teeth — at ease.
First and foremost, your teeth are important tools that you need for everyday use — just like your legs. Taking care of both will result in less pain. What causes the tingling or achiness in your teeth when you run? There are a number of reasons. You might be choosing to run in inclement weather conditions. When you do this with your mouth open, the cold air can be painful to those with sensitive teeth. Training yourself to breathe through your nose (weren’t you paying attention in P.E.?) could help alleviate the symptoms.
The very act of running means that your heart is beating furiously to pump more blood through your veins and arteries to ensure the flow of oxygen to your brain. This results in two situations: First, the increased flow of blood puts pressure wherever there are blood vessels present — and this doesn’t always happen uniformly. If there is pressure near your teeth, they might hurt. It’s not unusual. And second, the increasing blood pressure might occur near the sinuses, which can also result in pain.
Another possibility is where you choose to run. If you run on a hard surface like pavement, your footfalls will occur with a little added “oomph.” Combine those heavy footfalls with another activity many of us can’t help but do — clenching our teeth when we’re under stress — and you can often experience a type of vibration in the teeth, which results in the tell tale tingling sensation so many runners have.
There are a number of additional “steps” you can take (har har) to reduce the pain or tingling in your teeth. At the end of the day, all dentistry is cosmetic dentistry. Taking care of your teeth might help more than you think. Brush twice a day, and floss at least once. See your dentist every six months for a routine cleaning, and be sure to have any hygienic problems fixed as soon as you know about them.
The other factors are harder to control, but there are certain steps you can take. First, have you figured out where the pain is coming from? If not, it’s important to understand that environment is a key factor in why pain occurs (remember the cold air example). A brief change in environment might help you determine if the location of your run factors into the pain. If you run outside, then try running inside for a while. If you run on cold, rainy days, then try running in the sun instead. Try a soft track, or head to the treadmill at your local gym.
If all these steps fail, then see a doctor or ask your dentist if they might be able to help.