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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Poor Oral Health Could Affect Olympians' Performance -- February 3, 2014

With the 2014 Winter Olympics less than a week away, there's so much talk about the intensity of the Olympians training and commitment to their individual events. But a new study shows a commitment to oral health could help their overall performance.

Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine studied 302 athletes from the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London.  The study involved an oral health check-up and a personal assessment of the impact of oral health on their quality of life and athletic training and performance.  

The majority of the athletes in the study were from Africa, the Americas and Europe, and they represented 25 different sports including track and field, boxing and hockey.

About 55% of them had cavities, 75% had gum disease and 15% had periodontis, an irreversible gum infection.  The researchers noted that many of the sportwomen and men who competed in the 2012 London Olympics had poor levels of oral health that were similar to the problems seen in the most disadvantaged populations.  

Researcher Professor Ian Needleman of the University College London Eastman Dental Institute was surprised at the findings.  "It is amazing that many professional athletes -- who dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to honing their physical abilities -- do not have sufficient support of their oral health needs, even though this negatively impacts on their training and performance."

Almost half of the athletes in the study had not been to a dentist or had their teeth cleaned in the year prior.  Researchers said 8.7% of them had never been to a dentist.  

The number of athletes who said they were "bothered by oral health issues" totaled 42%, and 28% said they affected their quality of life.

Whether you're a professional athlete or a member of the general public, taking proper care of your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly will help you avoid health problems ranging from cavities to the extreme possibility of heart disease.  It also will help improve your self-confidence and performance in the events of daily life.

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