Olympic athletes are used to training hard to achieve their goals. The physical regimen required to perform at the level of an Olympic athlete is more than most could bear. However, getting their oral health into shape is not usually a part of an Olympian’s training. However, that may change in the future due to a new study that was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the study, Professor Ian Needleman of the University College London Eastman Dental Institute and his team of researchers recruited a total of 302 athletes from London’s 2012 athlete’s village. The majority of the athletes were from Europe, Africa and the Americas. Each athlete was given an oral health checkup and a personal assessment of the impact oral health had on their quality of life as well as their athletic training and performance. Researchers found that 55% of the athletes had dental carries (tooth decay), 75% had Gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease) and 15% had signs of Periodontis (an irreversible gum infection). Surprisingly, almost half of the Olympic athletes who took part in the study had not visited the dentist for a checkup in over a year. Even more surprisingly is the fact that 8.7% of the athletes reported that they had never been to a dentist.
In the assessment portion of the study, 42% of athletes said they were “bothered by oral health issues” and 28% reported that it negatively affected their quality of life. Additionally, 18% reported that they believed that oral health was negatively affecting their training and/or performance. Researchers hypothesize that these negative effects may be caused by pain, inflammation and a loss of confidence associated with dental health problems. To quote Dr. Needleman, “”Oral health is important for wellbeing and successful elite sporting performance. It is amazing that many professional athletes – people who dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to honing their physical abilities – do not have sufficient support for their oral health needs, even though this negatively impacts on their training and performance.”
The results of this study can also be translated into everyday life. Even if you are not an Olympic athlete, you are still expected to perform everyday at your job, with your family, at school, etc. Dental health problems can hold us back from doing the things we need to do and prevent us from enjoying life. The good news is that serious dental health problems are largely preventable. In most cases, you can achieve optimal oral health by visiting a dentist regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, refraining from smoking or using other tobacco products and practicing good daily oral hygiene (brushing and flossing). If you have not been to see a dentist in more than six months, schedule a checkup with your dentist today.
Posted on behalf of