People from afar may be surprised to hear that summer days in New England can reach temperatures in the 90s. Though our summer is short, the occasional intensely hot day in August should be respected. One of the dangers associated with being outside on a hot day is dehydration, which can cause mild to severe symptoms throughout the body, including low blood pressure, fever, and delirium. Oral health is not immune to the dangers of dehydration, which is why we want to keep you informed about what you can do to stay hydrated while you enjoy the summer.
Cavities and Dehydration
Since dehydration is a lack of water in the body, and since saliva is comprised mostly of water, it follows that dehydration leads to dry mouth. Besides being uncomfortable, a perpetually dry mouth can contribute to the formation of cavities. Studies have shown that saliva is important for oral health because of its antibacterial properties. Less saliva means more bacteria. When combined with a mouth full of sugary summer food, like trail mix or sweet bbq sauce, the risk of developing caries, the precursor to cavities, rises.
Staying hydrated will help keep our oral health intact. You may be thinking, “That’s easy, right? Drink water.” Well, maintaining hydration is dependent on what activity you’re doing – it could be as simple as drinking water, but it could involve some research. Below are some tips on how to stay hydrated whether you’re lounging by the pool or running a marathon.
Simply Enjoying the Sunshine
You may think you are not at risk for dehydration if you’re outside on a hot day, but not engaged in physical activity. However, a hot enough day can cause you to lose significant amounts of water even when your body is at rest. If you are lounging by the pool or hanging out at an outdoor gathering, there is probably a water source nearby – be sure to drink frequently.
Staying hydrated while hiking can be a bit complicated. You will have to drink more water than you would if your body was at rest. Additionally, you will have to carry all of your drinkable water with you; or, if backpacking, find it during the hike. Nothing can be more stressful than running out of water during a hike, but a little planning can help you avoid this situation.
Before you leave, find out how long the hike will be in terms of miles and hours. On average, you should drink one cup for every half hour you are hiking. You will sweat more if you’re hiking steep terrain rather than level ground, so plan to bring extra water if you’re conquering Mt. Washington. It also helps to drink a significant amount of water before you start hiking. Last, if you’re hiking in the back country or backpacking, find out ahead of time what and where your available water sources will be and plan accordingly.
Long Distance Running
Long distance runners are particularly susceptible to dehydration on a hot day due to an excessive loss of salt. When we sweat, we lose water and salt. Most activities don’t cause enough salt loss to become worrisome, but long distance running and other high exertion exercises are exceptions. Though we may think of salt as having a dehydrating quality to it, salt helps the body retain water. Too much or too little salt can be dangerous: balance is the goal. You can replenish lost salts by consuming drinks that contain electrolytes, rather than plain water.
If you have concerns about cavities, mouth pain, or any other oral health issues, we encourage you to call us at (207) 781-5900 for care.