Elite Athletes and Bad Teeth

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

A study, published in the British Dental Journal, has shown that elite athletes have bad teeth despite generally looking after them more than other people.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) interviewed 352 British athletes, from 11 sports, including cycling, swimming, football and rugby, and including those athletes who were preparing to compete in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, Brazil.

Although these interviews revealed that the athletes were more likely to brush their teeth twice a day and floss between their teeth, notwithstanding this finding, the athletes struggled to have heathy teeth.

Around half of elite athletes in the UK show signs of tooth decay compared with around a third of similarly aged adults.

Although smoking rates and overall diets were better in elite athletes, they frequently use sports drinks, energy gels and bars during training and competitions.

According to Dr Julie Gallagher, one of the UCL researchers:

“the sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and their acidity increases the risk of erosion.”

87% used sports drinks; 59% used energy bars; and 70% used energy gels.

Poor oral health, it is thought, can affect sporting performance and there is a need for elite athletes to use, controversially, toothpastes that are very high in fluoride.

Could such toothpastes, one day, find their way onto the anti-doping prohibited substances list?

Just a thought!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’