What do sports have to do with oral health?

June 5, 2019

Apparently, “Sports” and “oral health” don’t seem to have anything in common.

However, there is indeed a powerful connection between sports and oral health. A healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body, and vice-versa. Therefore, poor oral health can impact on your general health and worsen your performance in consequence. In turn, being engaged in some competition may also impact negatively on your oral health.

Surprisingly, oral care is not a priority for athletes and their medical teams and, therefore, the oral condition of many sports professionals is shockingly poor. According to a survey carried out on 399 athletes during the 2012 Olympic Games found out that 55.1% had dental caries, 44.6% suffered dental erosion, 76% had periodontal disease. Most importantly, more than 40% of athletes reported being ‘bothered’ by their oral health: 28% reported an impact on the quality of life and 18% on training and performance

Why is that? According to many experts, the main reason why oral health in athletes is poor could be directly linked with their lifestyle. Just to mention a few causes: the intensive training and extreme conditions athletes push their bodies through, or the high intake of calories athletes need to take, usually provided by sports drinks with high added sugar content. Also, most of the athletes experience dry mouth, which is a perfect condition for bacteria to grow.

In order to make oral care a priority for athletes and sports medical teams, the World Dental Federation (FDI) and Sunstar launch the ‘Sports & Dentistry’ guidelines, a project that mainly focuses on the impact oral health has on sports performance and vice-versa. There are four materials available, and each one is targeted to a specific public: amateur athletes, professional athletes, dentists and sports organisations.

Also, this project highlights the basic oral care recommendations for sports fans: brushing the teeth twice a day, interdental brushing and mouthwash, and dental check-up twice a year. Also, it is highly recommended to wear a mouthguard when engaging in contact sports.

The ultimate goal is to spread the message that oral care matters. Whether you’re a professional football player or out for a Sunday morning jog, your oral health impacts your performance.

Download the ‘Sports & Dentistry’ guidelines: