Half elite British sportspeople suffer tooth decay and two thirds have gum disease according to new research. In the largest study of its kind published by Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiologymore than 350 sportsmen and women from 9 GB Olympic teams, along with Team Sky, England Rugby and Reading FC underwent oral health screening.
Nearly half were found to have tooth decay and 77% had gingivitis, an early indicator of gum disease and 39% reported having bleeding gums whilst brushing their teeth, a sign of gum inflammation. Only 1.1% had excellent periodontal health.
A third reported that this affected their performance along with their ability to eat, relax and sleep. The odds of having tooth decay were 2.4 times greater in team sport than endurance sport. The possible causes is that nutrition in sport is heavily reliant on carbohydrate intakes which are known to increase inflammation in the body and gum tissues.
In sports there is also a lot of air flow, such as running or cycling and breathing hard can make the mouth dry so teeth lose their protective benefits of saliva and there is also evidence of lower quality saliva with intensive training. Stress can also be another cause. Some athletes report vomiting before a run as a result of pre-competition anxiety. Vomiting brings stomach acid into the mouth, leading to enamel damage. Rejuvenating sports drinks don’t seem to have much correlation with tooth decay but it is still theorised that their acidic nature creates a bad oral environment.
Ways to keep your teeth healthier as an athlete.
- Focus on a balanced diet and don’t succumb to fad diets or overloading on certain food types.
- Energy drinks and protein shakes cause a favourable environment for tooth decay. If you use these rinse your mouth with water afterwards and use sugar free gum to encourage saliva.
- If you notice you have a dry mouth consult your dentist.
- Focus on hydration.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Brush and floss regularly.
- If you do a contact sport use protective gum shields.
It is possible to maintain your sport and oral health at peak performance. For further advice please call the Mayhill on 01600 712020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org