Geke van den Berg is a full-time judoka at Papendal, European champion under 23, and also a graduate and working as a dental hygienist. She likes to tell you about oral health and energy sources from nutrition.

As an elite athlete, I discovered FIRST to be sharper in games and have more energy during training. However, my dental background in particular made me choose the gum over coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages, and have continued to use it during sports and in daily life.


Mouth health and elite sports

During the 2012 Olympics, a high level of dental problems was discovered among participants in various sports. Oral health is a very important but often overlooked part of an elite athlete's health and well-being. The recommendation is to have a maximum of 7 eating and/or drinking moments in a day (drinking water does not count, of course). When having more than 7 moments, the risk of getting cavities increases. Cavities are caused by bacteria converting sugars from food into acids. These acids attack the enamel, but direct acids can also cause dental wear. Examples include oranges, soft drinks and sports drinks. The teeth need the time between these eating and drinking occasions to recover. Saliva plays an important role in this protective mechanism. It takes care of flushing away and neutralizing the acids. However, research has shown that after a period of physical activity, there is reduced stimulated saliva flow, popularly known as a 'dry mouth'. Usage of an energy drink or sports drink is not helpful, and this is not an ideal situation for oral health.

Sugar-free and bundle

Most sports drinks and caffeine-containing agents contain sugars. These can be added sugars as well as natural sugars. If you take small amounts each time, you are quickly over the maximum of 7 times in a day. The advice is to drink a sports drink all at once, or combining a protein bar with your shake to limit the moments. In addition, sugar-free is a good choice. Be aware, however, that a light drink often still contains a lot of direct acids to optimize flavor and that ""no added sugars"" does not mean it is completely sugar-free. Natural products such as fruit juice also contain sugars that cause cavities. Sugar substitutes such as maltitol, sucralose and xylitol are non-cariogenic, meaning they do not cause cavities and are better for your teeth. These sugar substitutes are used in FIRST.

Saliva stimulation and xylitol

A dry mouth can also be caused by prolonged talking or by feeling stressed and nervous. However, a period of physical activity can also lower saliva production. Chewing causes saliva release to be stimulated again. This can be done by consuming a meal or using a sugar-free chewing gum, often these also have xylitol as a component. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that cannot be converted to acid by the bacteria in the mouth. In addition, there are several studies that show that when xylitol is used frequently and for a longer period of time, it affects the composition of the bacteria in the mouth, thus reducing acid formation when other sugars are used.

Coloring of teeth

Today the beauty ideal is: the whiter the teeth, the better. Tea, coffee, and smoking are agents that counteract this beauty ideal. The dyes bind with plaque, and because teeth are not completely smooth, it adheres to the pits and grooves. Dental plaque is the layer of bacteria that accumulates on the teeth every day. Thus, this not only causes sugars to be converted into acids, but also causes food coloring to adhere to the teeth. This adhesion can be minimized by obviously consuming less of these foods or, for example, drinking water in addition to a cup of coffee.

Responsible choice

FIRST is a gum with 80mg of caffeine and B vitamins that provides you with a long-lasting clean energy boost, extra focus, and strength within 10 minutes. FIRST was created by top speed skater Mark Tuitert, who was searching for a good working healthy energy source based on caffeine. FIRST also turns out to be a good choice for the teeth. It contains no sugars, does contain xylitol, stimulates saliva release and contains no dyes that build into plaque. This allows you to get a boost of energy for your workouts, competitions or during work, without putting a strain on your teeth.

Tip for the healthy mouth

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Use a toothpick, rager or floss daily.
  3. Adhere to a maximum of 7 eating and/or drinking occasions in a day.
  4. Restrict the consumption of acidic beverages/foods in a day.
  5. Visit the dentist and dental hygienist regularly!
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