As professional dentists in Waterloo”, we disbelievingly read a study released on 30 September that made shocking reports on the state of the oral health 2012 Olympic athletes, with some athletes reportedly having never visited a dentist before. University College London researchers examined the teeth and gums of 302 Olympic athletes who visited a London 2012 Olympic Village dental clinic.
The athletes examined took part in 25 different sports:
- About one third competed in track and field
- 14% competed in boxing
- 11% in hockey
- 8% in swimming.
Most of the athletes originated from Africa, the Americas and from Europe. More than half of the athletes examined had tooth decay, with 41% of cases being irreversible.
Three quarters of the examined athletes displayed early-stage gum disease with about 15% displaying signs of periodontitis, a serious and irreversible infection of the soft tissue around the teeth. When asked, nearly half of the athletes said they had not visited a dentist or dental hygienist in the previous 12 months. One in twelve of the athletes said they had never been to a dentist before.
“Oral health is important for the wellbeing and successful elite sporting performance,” said Ian Needleman, a professor at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute.
Past studies have hinted at the poor state of oral health in athletes being attributed to the intake of energy-giving carbohydrates as well as a reduced immune function through intensive training. This study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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