Athletes' Oral Health Can Affect Performance

Intense dietary and training pressures on athletes could put them at high risk of oral problems for many reasons. The energy athletes need for training often means they have high-carbohydrate diets and regularly use sugary, acidic energy drinks that may contribute to decay and erosion in their teeth, said the statement, published online September 28.

Professional athletes and teams spend time and money on improving performance for an edge that can make all the difference in elite sports, said the leader of the collaborative effort involving sports groups, elite athletes and oral health and sports medicine experts. “Simple strategies to prevent oral health problems can offer marginal performance gains that require little or no additional time or money. Things like better tooth brushing techniques and higher fluoride toothpastes could prevent the toothache and associated sleeping and training difficulties that can make the crucial difference between gold and silver,” said the statement authors.

And athletes at all levels of competition can protect their mouths by using mouthguards, the American Dental Association says. A mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of an athlete’s standard equipment from an early age. For more information visit ADA’s consumer website The ADA offers a patient education brochure, Sports Safety, that helps dentists get kids and parents on board with facial protection.

A University College London survey at the London 2012 Olympic Games found that 18 percent of athletes said their oral health had a negative impact on their performance and 46.5 percent had not been to the dentist in the past year.

Eligible volunteer dentists may provide dental care for U.S. Olympic elite athletes as members of the U.S. Olympic Committee health care team under an agreement with the Academy for Sports Dentistry.

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