It takes decades of training to prepare for the Olympics, but there’s one area that these world-class athletes are deficient in, and that’s oral health. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 55% of Olympic athletes suffered from tooth decay or cavities. They may be the best in their field at high jump or discus, but come to taking care of their bicuspids, they are seriously lacking. The study found 75% of respondents had gingivitis and a full 15% were suffering from periodontis or gum disease. The researchers also reported that this elite group of competitors had worse oral health overall than other people of comparable ages.
25 different Sports
The University College London Eastman Dental Institute study, led by Professor Ian Needleman, surveyed 302 athletes from the 2012 Summer Olympics. Of these three hundred athletes featured in the study, most were from Africa, the Americas and Europe, and they came from 25 different sports. They all visited the Olympic Village Dental Clinic where the study's information was collected.
Affects performance in a negative way
The study also asked the athletes about the perceived affects that their lack of attention to oral health had on themselves. More than one fifth of the athletes surveyed said they thought their poor oral health was affecting their training or performance in a negative way. In addition, a third of all respondents reported that their dental health affected their overall quality of life. The study’s head, Dr. Needleman, was quoted in Medical News Today as saying "Oral health is important for wellbeing and successful elite sporting performance. It is amazing that many professional athletes - people who dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to honing their physical abilities - do not have sufficient support for their oral health needs, even though this negatively impacts on their training and performance." The researchers found that many of these elite athletes had not even visited a dentist recently, and almost half recalled that had not made it to a dental exam in the previous year. In fact, 9% of these Olympians reported that they had never been to the dentist at all!
Bad Teeth = Lack of Confidence
There have been many other studies on confidence and dental health, which proved that the psychological impacts of poor dental health can affect a person’s mood and mental health. Other studies have even showed that oral hygiene issues like gum disease and tooth rot can cause infections and the entire body to inflame. This inflammation can cause a drop in a premiere athlete’s performance. Tooth decay may be more prevalent in Olympics athletes because they eat a lot of carbohydrates in training, and their frequent use of sports drinks and gels, which can be high in sugar.
Whatever the cause of the 2012 Olympians’ teeth problems, you can be sure that the medal contenders for the next Olympic games in Sochi, Russia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are brushing and flossing every day. It may be the last thing between them and a trip to the winners’ podium for a medal.