Discover How Olympic Athletes Run the Risk of Tooth Decay


According to a new UCL study, top athletes have higher rates of oral disease and poor dental hygiene. Overall Olympic athletes are more likely to brush their teeth twice a day, floss and sustain a healthy and balanced diet. You may be wondering how this can lead to tooth decay and is there any hope for the rest of us. Despite brushing teeth twice a day, the British Dental Journal mentions the potential for improving oral hygiene in Olympic athletes and other sports competitors alike. At the Hunts Cross health centre, we wish to highlight some of the main issues with dental care as well as ways to reduce the risk of tooth decay and periodontal treatment. And you will be pleased to know you too can implement these into your daily routine and lifestyle.

During the UCL study, 352 Olympic professionals were surveyed to measure levels of oral hygiene including gum health, tooth decay and acid erosion. The results revealed that nearly half had tooth decay that had not been treated and the majority had signs of gum inflammation. It also reported that 94% sports athletes brush their teeth at least twice a day and 44% regularly floss. Both were higher than the general public. Below are some of the common dental problems and ways in which to prevent them.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

We all make lifestyle choices that could affect our health including oral hygiene, that can sometimes lead to tooth loss. Poor nutrition can play a major part in this as teeth require several essential nutrients to remain strong. Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C and D can all be obtained from a balanced and healthy diet.

If your body is not receiving these nutrients to help keep your teeth strong there is a chance you may be at risk to tooth decay or tooth loss. Acidic and sugary foods, as well as carbohydrates, can also add to the build up of plaque on your teeth that may lead to cavities and problems with your teeth.

Smoking can also lead to tooth loss; studies have shown people who smoke are twice as likely to lose their teeth compared to those who don’t.

Limit the Amount of Sugar Intake

The UCL study states that the sports professionals that took part in the survey frequently use sports drinks to hydrate when training. More than half snack on energy bars which are also known to damage teeth. The sugar these products contain increase the risk of tooth decay and the acidity of them can lead to the risk of erosion. We suggest swapping these for alternative energy sources such as water that is free from acid, sugar and calories, as well as fruit, nuts and sugar free protein bars.

Adopt and Continue Good Dental Hygiene

Athletes that took part in the study already maintain good oral hygiene. Most brush their teeth at least twice a day, floss regularly and attend consistent dental check-ups. Busy schedules can sometimes limit time to go to the dentist, we recommend planning for at least two visits per year providing you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. You can also add extra fluoride into your regime by using specific toothpaste or mouthwash. Flossing is often forgotten but it can be argued is the most important. Brushing and flossing work hand in hand to fight against the build-up of plaque. It targets the hard to reach places between your teeth and under your gums helping to decrease the risk of periodontal treatment and gingivitis. Take a look at our previous post on our tips for healthy teeth and gums.

In summary, we recommend keeping your intake of high sugary foods and drinks to a minimum. Put plans in place to practice a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent tooth decay and ask your dentist for advice if you are concerned about any aspect of your oral hygiene. Adopting the right flossing technique can sometimes be challenging too, so be sure to ask your dental practice for help at your next appointment.

If you’re looking for an experienced dentist in Liverpool contact the Hunts Cross Dental Centre to set up a consultation today with one of our friendly staff who will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have!

One response

Athletes’ BEWE scores showed that they were at a medium risk for tooth erosion, whereas the regular person controls were at a low risk. While athletes did have more cavities, that was associated with how much they trained. More workout hours logged per week meant a higher risk of cavities. Everybody’s spit had pretty neutral pHs when they were just sitting around the lab, jawing on some wax. But, and this is where it gets interesting, athletes saliva had a significantly higher pH (meaning it was more basic, or alkaline) during the workout. They also produced less saliva overall.

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