Health & Safety

August 8, 2014

Oral health impacts physical performance

Senior Airman ROBIN HANSEN
56th Dental Squadron

In order for Olympic athletes to be successful, it is imperative for them to train hard and ensure their overall health is impeccable.

When you think of an athlete training, their toothbrush does not usually come to mind as an essential training tool. However, recent research has shown oral health has a direct link to an athlete’s performance as well as overall quality of life.

This research was conducted after the 2012 London Summer Olympics in a study led by professor Ian Needleman of the University College London Easman Dental Institute. The study included 302 athletes. The athletes represented 25 various sports such as track and field, boxing, gymnastics and hockey.

After conducting a dental exam and cleaning, to include X-rays, findings concluded 55 percent had dental caries, which are also known as tooth decay or a cavity. Unfortunately, 41 percent of the cavities found were into the dentin part of the tooth, meaning it is irreversible. In addition, a shocking 75 percent of the athletes had gingivitis, which is the early stage of gum disease and 15 percent had periodontitis which is irreversible gum disease.

The dental findings of the athletes could have been prevented if an annual oral health exam and general maintenance had occurred.

Eighteen percent of the 302 athletes said they believed poor oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance. The negative impacts included pain from oral disease, inflammation and a decrease in self-confidence. Oral health assessments play a pivotal role in achieving maximum performance.

Even if you are not training to be an Olympic athlete you may improve your performance on the track or in the gym by practicing good oral hygiene and staying current with an annual dental exam.




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