Oral Health & Care for Athletes

Every person has unique dental hygiene and health needs but certain groups of people with health conditions or other factors may experience increased dental health problems.  Many people do not realize that athletes, and especially elite athletes, have very unique oral health and care needs.  Athletes undergo intense training and that type of vigorous activity and dietary requirements can impact oral health.  Athletes must be in top physical condition to compete at the level they need to win so every aspect of health must be addressed.  Colgate points out that it is important for athletes to address oral health so that they can optimize their athletic performance, “The energy athletes need for training often means they have high-carbohydrate diets and regularly use sugary, acidic energy drinks that may contribute to decay and erosion in their teeth, said the statement, published online September 28. Professional athletes and teams spend time and money on improving performance for an edge that can make all the difference in elite sports, said the leader of the collaborative effort involving sports groups, elite athletes and oral health and sports medicine experts…A University College London survey at the London 2012 Olympic Games found that 18 percent of athletes said their oral health had a negative impact on their performance and 46.5 percent had not been to the dentist in the past year.”

Saliva naturally protects teeth from erosion and decay so if an athlete is frequently dehydration due to strenuous training and exercise, they are at a higher risk of oral health problems.  Couple that with consuming sports drinks to try to recover electrolytes and consuming high carbohydrate foods to nourish their bodies and their oral health is jeopardized further.  Finally, many elite athletes are so consumed with their training that they cannot or do not find the time to visit the dentist on a regular basis. Athletes should be encouraged to avoid sports drinks, particularly those with high sugar or acidity.  Additionally, all athletes should make a mouth guard a part of their uniform when competing.  A mouth guard is easy to get used to wearing and will protect an athlete’s lips, gums, teeth, and jaw from injury. Many people think a mouth guard is only for hockey or basketball players but they are good for a wide variety of sports including baseball, soccer, track and field, and more! Finally, athletes, just like all people, need to brush, floss, and rinse their teeth daily to ensure optimal oral health.

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