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Athletes With Bad Breath

Overview: Many already known of athletes' bad oral health, but a recent study has shown that the situation is not getting any better. In a statement made by University College London health experts, athletes must improve basic measures such as brushing and flossing must be encouraged if there is to be any improvement. For more information, read the blog below.



For many athletes oral health is not a high priority, yet it has been repeatedly shown to cause adverse health and performance problems. However, despite this being a known factor for some time now, there seems to be no sign of improvement.


This is a subject that often comes to light around Olympic events, such as during the London 2012 Games and the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. In a study following the London 2012 Games, 18% of athletes reported that their bad oral health was having a negative impact of their performance and 46.5% admitted they had not been to a dentist in the past year. In fact, the level of dental hygiene seen at these games was considered to be similar to that of disadvantaged populations.


However, most recently experts have claimed that despite this being a relatively well known problem, not much is happening to change it. In a statement published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, various UCL health experts say this situation has to change.


Why do athletes have such bad oral health?

There are various theories as to why athletes suffer from such bad dental hygiene. One theory is that because dehydration is common among athletes, a dry mouth and lack of saliva may cause more tooth decay problems. Another possible reason references the large number of acidic and sugary energy drinks that athletes tend to drink to power them through their workouts and games. The statement made by the UCL health experts stresses the importance of good dental habits for those who deal with these circumstances.


Professor Ian Needleman from the UCL Eastman Dental elaborates: "We do not want to demonize energy drinks and [we] are not saying that athletes shouldn't be using them [...] However, people should be aware of the risks to oral health and can take simple measures to mitigate these. For example, water or hypotonic drinks are likely to be more suitable for simple hydration, and spit don't rinse after tooth brushing. For sports where athletes need a lot of energy drinks, high fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses should be seriously considered."


Professor Needleman and his colleges recommend simple measures such as regular brushing and flossing to combat the issues that many athletes are faced with.


Bottom Line: We have known for a while that elite athletes tend to suffer worse than others when it comes to dental health, but this recent statement by Professor Needleman and his colleges shows that this is an issue that must be tackled. The benefits available for athletes who improve their oral health aren't just dental; there are sporting advantages too: “Oral health could be an easy win for athletes, as the oral conditions that can affect performance are all easily preventable [...] Professional athletes and their teams spend a lot of time and money on ways to marginally improving performance, as this can make all the difference in elite sports. Simple strategies to prevent oral health problems can offer marginal performance gains that require little to no additional time or money,” says Professor Needleman.


It seems that attending more dental appointments, brushing and flossing more, and using mouthwash will not only give athletes better dental hygiene, but it will also increase their sporting performance!


For more information on any of our dental services, contact Marlborough Dental Centre in NE Calgary today on (403) 248-2066.


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