How does oral health affect athletes?

Dental consultations at the 2012 Olympic Games comprised 30% of all medical visits (second only to musculoskeletal). which means we have a real problem with the oral health of athletes and their athletic performance…


Although athletes always look healthy and show us a healthy lifestyle without any health problems, a study published in the Journal Dental British and the previous statistics say the opposite...

In general, periodontal disease, caries, dental erosion, and pericoronitis are among the most common problems athletes suffer from. Whereas cases of caries alone amount to 49%, including elite athletes around the world. Even though they take great care of brushing their teeth: 94% of athletes brush their teeth twice a day, 44% floss regularly, the risk factors they face and their diet routine are not conducive to protect their teeth from these diseases.

What is the reason behind this?


In fact, several factors that athletes meet in their daily routine, stand behind this problem, in addition to a lack of awareness about these factors, which can cause serious risks to their oral health. However, athletes can prevent oral diseases and enjoy good oral health through simple steps that start with awareness-raising and development of preventive strategies, these steps include:

1. Nutrition:
Dietary carbohydrate intake is one of the most well-characterized causative factors for dental caries, and acidic foodstuffs and beverages are the main factors causing tooth erosion. 
The habitual diet, sports drinks, and nutritional supplements are a major determinants of oral health. The Support of training and performance with sport drinks and carbohydrate gels, which are taken frequently during activity.
These drinks include:
● Energy drinks (normally with a CHO concentration of >10%)
● Isotonic sports drinks (4–8% CHO)
● Hypotonic drinks (normally around 2% CHO or less).

It is also common for athletes to develop eating disorders (such as bulimia and anorexia), which can negatively affect their oral health.

2. Dehydration:
Saliva neutralizes acids and provides the calcium and phosphate needed to remineralize the enamel layer in the teeth, but the physical effort of athletes makes them susceptible to dehydration, and consuming sports drinks, soda, or nutritional supplements during exercise increases the contact time with teeth, which make the mouth environment more acidic, and the teeth vulnerable to corrosion.
Some research has linked increased exercise hours to the risk of caries or dental erosion due to frequent consumption of foods or liquids that may harm the teeth.

3. Health behaviors and awareness towards them:
Regular visits to the dentist are not enough to build good oral health unless accompanied by proper healthy practices, and preventive measures are necessary especially in violent and dangerous sports such as boxing and gymnastics.
The most important healthy behaviors that  must be observed:
● The Use of high fluoride toothpaste.
● Behavioral change in diet, oral hygiene, and pattern of acidic beverage use.
● Reducing the risk of dental injuries by wearing protectors during exercise or sports.

And for me, as an orthodontist, what does this mean for my athletic friends?

Athletes should be aware of the effect of sports drinks and acid on their braces, as white marks can appear on their teeth around braces within two months if the plaque is not removed. 
In addition, they need to wear mouth guards during violent sports in order to avoid injuries of the cheek or lips from the inside because of the presence of orthodontic pieces fixed on the teeth in case of a shock or blow to the mouth area. 


Eventually, we have to raise awareness about the association of oral health with public health and its great impact on well-being, and the quality of life, in addition to its association with clear psychological and social effects that affect sports performance generally.

So, let me tell you some examples:
Oral health can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and pneumonia, and to be more accurate:
● Caries and periodontal disease can cause serious infections elsewhere in your body.
● Emergency cases such as tooth abscess, dental nerve infections, or wisdom teeth.
● Pain before a match can cause poor athletic performance or even withdrawal.

Finally, the conclusion is:
Maintain healthy habits and behaviors, moisten your mouth with water, balance your diet, visit a dentist once every 6 months. And practice your passion successfully.