February 2014

Oral Health of Olympians

The 2014 Olympic games have come to a close. The dedication, training and competitiveness of the athletes either led to success or prepared them for future high level competition.

Olympians follow strict training schedules and stick to diets that maintain their bodies at peak performance levels, but seem to miss an important component - oral health.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, a cross-sectional study was conducted from the dental centre within the Polyclinic in the athletes' village, to assess participants' oral health. Following informed consent and a standardised history, clinical examinations and brief questionnaires were completed for the athletes. 278 sports people representing 25 sports and mostly from Africa, the Americas and Europe, took part.

The results were shocking, with high levels of poor oral health demonstrated throughout - 55% of athletes had dental caries, 45% had dental erosion, 76% were living with gingivitis and 15% had advanced periodontitis. What's more, over 40% of the athletes surveyed were concerned about their dental health, with 28% reporting an impact on their quality of life and 18% on training and performance. Nearly half of the participants had also not undergone a dental examination or hygiene care for at least a year.

The 2016 summer Olympics are not far away, but there is still plenty of time to improve their oral health.

Athletes Should Include Oral Health as Part of Training 

In order to be at their very best, athletes must be healthy in every aspect both psychological and physical, and that includes ensuring good dental health. 

Particularly for any patients participating in a high standard sporting event or even pursuing a career in sport, they need to be aware of the effects of good oral health.

The effects from poor oral health on performance are:

  • Local and systemic inflammation
  • Sensitivity from dental erosion due to sugary drinks
  • Lack of confidence due to poor appearance, bad breath, missing teeth, or bleeding gums

Simple yet effective adjuncts to their dental health regimes that don't take too much time are essential, and you can recommend a host of different solutions to suit all lifestyles.