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When you think of an Olympic athlete, you imagine somebody at the peak of their physical condition and health. Whilst this is indeed the case for most Olympians, studies conducted since between the 2012 London Olympic Games through to the current games in Rio Di Janeiro have shown an interesting anomaly – an average person is more likely to win a medal when it comes to healthy teeth! In fact, a normal person is almost half as likely to experience dental problems in comparison. Why do athletes have problems with their teeth, and what can we learn from this?
When you picture the diet of an athlete, you probably see a perfect picture of a healthy, balanced diet. When it comes to mealtimes, athletes do indeed tend to eat well. The problem tends to be in what they consume during training. Their high intake of carbohydrates, consumption of sports drinks and energy supplements is believed to be a big contributor to tooth decay and other problems.
If you are a keen sports person, consider how often you consume sports drinks and similar products. Think about looking for low sugar or even sugar-free products wherever possible. Also, make sure that you are as committed to your tooth brushing regime as you are to your sport.
Rinse the mouth with water each time you consume an energy boosting product. This reduces the amount of sugar and bacteria left in the mouth.
Another extremely common factor is believed to be the frequent dehydration that these sports people experience. Research indicates that dehydration reduces the protection offered by saliva. Saliva plays a key role in protection against tooth decay, dental erosion and gum disease.
Be sure to stay sufficiently hydrated at all times. Again, try to make it sugar neutral wherever possible for the greatest benefits.
As well as protecting your body in general, your immune system also plays an important role in helping you to maintain healthy teeth. Whether you are a professional athlete, a senior manager, a self-employed business person or a busy parent, the chances are you are constantly under pressure. Being stressed on a regular basis can quickly undermine your immune system. This can have a knock-on effect on your teeth and gums.
To protect your teeth, look for ways to relax, recharge and find a balance. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet that offers your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to boost its natural immunity.
One reason that athletes experience high levels of dental problems is that they fail to make time within their training programmes to invest in their dental care. Coaches, trainers, physiotherapists and other medical staff all form part of the athlete’s core support team, but dentists seem to be absent.
The similar is often true of life in general – making time to visit the dentist and hygienist can be difficult around the pressures of work and family. Even when time does allow, it’s understandable that you are unlikely to see it as the most rewarding use of your free time.
Taking the time to visit your dentist at least twice a year – or more frequently if recommended – can really help to identify issues at the earliest stage and address them before they develop into a problem.
Whilst it is less of a problem for the majority of individuals, receiving blows to the face and mouth is a particular issue for many athletes. It can also affect people who participate in a variety of sports and other activities.
If you play a contact sport such as rugby, hockey or boxing or enjoy a physically challenging activity that may involve contact with the face, always ensure you are wearing adequate protection such as gum shields. In all cases, don’t be afraid to seek advice from your dentist about how best to protect your teeth and gums from the risk of damage.
At Wickersley Dental Practice, we want all of our customers to have a smile that’s worthy of a gold medal. Our friendly and experienced team is always available to offer you the very best in dental treatment and advice. To book an appointment now call us on 01709 543033 or click here to contact us online.