Elite athletes often have high rates of oral disease despite brushing their teeth more frequently than most people, finds a new study published in the British Dental Journal.
A research team surveyed 352 Olympic and professional athletes across 11 sports, including cycling, swimming, rugby, football, rowing, and hockey. The dental check-ups revealed substantial amounts of oral disease, finding that nearly half had untreated tooth decay, the large majority showed early signs of gum inflammation, and almost a third reported that their oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance. These elite athletes had poor oral health despite their efforts to care for their teeth. The researchers found that a majority of the athletes in the survey already had good oral-health habits in as much as they brush their teeth twice a day, floss, visit the dentist regularly, don’t smoke and have a healthy general diet, except for one important thing:
The researchers found that the athletes also regularly use sports drinks (87%), energy bars (59%) and energy gels (70%), which are known to damage teeth. The sugar in the sports drinks, energy gels and bars they frequently use during training and competition increases the risk of tooth decay, and their acidity increases the risk of erosion. This could well be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay and acid erosion seen during the dental check-ups.
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