25 Aug 20

Endurance athletes need to consume huge amounts of calories to keep their energy up – often with damaging results to their teeth. Ultra-runner Carla Molinaro talks about how important her dental health is to her.

Carla Molinaro is an elite ultra-runner, sports coach and adventurer, who has just broken the Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) women’s record. In July, Carla took just 12 days, 30 minutes and 14 seconds to run the length of Britain, 874 miles, getting up at 4am and running till 10pm every day.

Naturally, Carla is very careful about her health, with regular input from physiotherapists and osteopaths, in order to avoid injury. She also minds her diet, but on her LEJOG run she was burning 7,500 calories a day – snacking regularly as she ran on sausages, sausage rolls, pancakes, crackers, fruit and vegetables, and occasional cans of Coke at the end of the day. She’s very aware that the diet of many athletes, frequently involving energy drinks, can be disastrous for dental health.

Carla, how did you get into ultra-running?

I‘ve always been into sport and have just built the distances up. I used to do triathlons but have now come back to running and I have started to enjoy adventures more than races. I love getting to see places on foot rather than just flying past them. LEJOG was the hardest thing I have ever done but it was an amazing experience.

When did you start to become aware of the importance of dental health?

All my family have had problems with fillings, and when I was at university our running team was sponsored by Lucozade. You get given energy drinks for free and at the time we all thought that was great. I finished up having eight fillings in a year. It was horrific and I stopped using energy drinks while I was at university.

How do you keep your energy levels up?

I prefer to use an electrolyte to replace the fluids and I have trained myself to eat food when I’m running, rather than drinking, as I think that’s preferable. I do have the odd can of Coke at the end of the day, or if I need a quick boost, but that’s all. On LEJOG I ate pancakes, mini sausages, crackers, eggs, sausage rolls, flapjacks, fruit and veg. My sister met me at regular intervals with food.

How important is food to you?

Our family is in the restaurant business and I have grown up surrounded by tasty food. I enjoy baking and cooking meals from scratch. It helps me unwind.

Were you aware of your mouth during LEJOG?

I developed ulcers in my mouth and cuts on my tongue after about 8 days because of the acidity in my mouth from eating so often. Although I don’t suffer from sensitivity I have lots of fillings and recently had root canal work done. I have got four crowns and realised that I am 36 and have four fake teeth. I don’t want to make that any worse, though sometimes as an athlete you have to accept some things are part of the job. I am now very conscious of my dental health and that’s why I eat and take electrolytes instead now to keep my energy up.

Do you think other endurance athletes are aware of dental health and the possible damage caused by their diet and energy drinks?

I don’t think so. Most of my fellow runners drink energy drinks – the marketing is so good that people believe they need them. When I am coaching I try and get people off drinking sugar and encourage them to eat food instead.

BioMin® F protects teeth continuously by releasing fluoride, calcium and phosphate ions slowly over several hours, and it gets to work faster in the presence of acid in the mouth, e.g. after a sugary snack or drink. Do you think that this would be advantageous to athletes like yourself?

With the amount that you have to eat and drink during ultra-running events I think it would be really beneficial to have a toothpaste that continually releases fluoride, calcium and phosphate to help protect them. It’s great to see that BioMin have made a product that does this.

What plans do you have for your next adventure?

Maybe running across the Pyrenees – it would be great to run from one sea to the other. Alternatively, perhaps around the UK’s coastline. At the moment I am inclined to stay in the UK and there are so many adventures to have here. And I am going to give BioMin F a try!

We’ll be checking in with Carla in due course to see if and how her dental health is improving by using BioMin F.