Many Athletes Had Poor Dental Health

Dental health problems were common in athletes, but they may be preventable

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Athletes often deal with fatigue, sore joints or pulled muscles from playing sports. But new research found that many athletes also face dental health problems.

Many athletes don't have time to keep up their dental hygiene, wrote the authors of a recent report. The authors made recommendations that could help athletes keep their dental issues to a minimum.

Many factors can lead to dental problems for athletes, including drinking sugary sports drinks or overworking their bodies, the study authors noted. Athletes may follow diets to build muscle that are not good for their teeth or be forced to deal with dry mouth on a regular basis when on the field.

These and other issues can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems for athletes.

However, the authors of this report noted, there are ways to reduce these problems. They suggested that athletes have regular dental check-ups. They said athletes should be made aware of the importance of dental hygiene

“Oral diseases are preventable,” the report authors noted in their review. “Simple interventions may have a dramatic impact on oral health including use of high strength fluoride toothpastes, other topical fluoride preparations, behavioural change related to diet and oral hygiene and pattern of use of acidic drinks, for example, sports drinks.”

The authors also recommended that more research focus on ways to help athletes improve their dental health.

Ian Needleman, PhD, a periodontist at Eastman Dental Institute in London, wrote the study with colleagues.

To study dental health in athletes, the authors looked at 39 past studies on the topic.

Poor dental health was common among elite athletes, according to the research, which was co-written by UK and US authors.

Many athletes had tooth decay, gum disease, breakdown of enamel on their teeth, and wisdom teeth that were infected or embedded in the gums, the authors noted. By cutting down on acidic sports drinks or seeking dental care for problems when they first arise, many problems can be taken care of before they become serious issues, the authors wrote.

As few as 14 percent and as many as 57 percent of athletes in high-risk sports also suffered damage to their teeth due to trauma, the authors wrote.

There are many possible reasons for athletes' dental problems, ranging from drinking too many acidic sports drinks to side effects of eating disorders, the report authors noted. They also suggested that athletes may exercise so much that their immune systems are less effective at dealing with disease.

The wealth of the countries where the athletes lived was not an issue, they added. Athletes from both developing and developed countries showed the same dental problems.

Overall, the dental health of the average athlete was on par with that of a nonathlete who lived in a deprived country, the researchers found.

Dental problems can affect an athlete’s ability to compete, the authors wrote. Up to 40 percent of athletes said their dental health problems bothered them or changed their quality of life.

The authors recommended early reporting of dental problems, having good dental hygiene and wearing mouth guards when warranted.

This report was published Oct. 13 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 14, 2014
Last Updated:
October 20, 2014