Study Claims Dental Issues May Have Hindered 2012 Olympic Athletes

SAN FRANCISCO- To participate in the Olympics, athletes must be in peak physical shape and outstanding health…right? Research from 2012’s London Olympic games suggests otherwise. 

Professor Ian Needleman of the University College London Eastman Dental Institute led a study to learn how dental health problems affect the world’s finest athletes. At the 2012 London Olympics games, he and his team conducted oral check ups on more than 300 athletes at the athletes’ village. The team also collected personal assessments of how they felt their dental health affected their training and performance. Athletes haled from various countries and represented 25 sports. 

The study yielded some unexpected findings: 

   55 percent of the athletes had cavities. Of this number, only 41 percent showed reversible decay in the dentin.

   More than 75 percent had mild gum disease, known as gingivitis.

   15 percent displayed signs of periodontitis, which is a severe and irreversible form of gum disease.

   Almost half of the athletes had not visited a dentist for an exam or cleaning in the previous year.

   8.7 percent had never received a dental exam or cleaning. 

Researchers note many of the athletes showed oral health problems common in the populations of underprivileged countries.  

Perhaps the most shocking statistic, 18 percent of athletes admitted their dental health problems were negatively affecting their training regimen and performance. Researchers believe painful dental conditions, inflammation from gum disease and hindered self-confidence are the chief culprits in the decrease of performance. Nagging oral health problems can also serve as a major distraction during a stringent training schedule.

“Our teeth and gums are sensitive and are connected to our general health,” says San Francisco dentist Dr. Robert Walley. “If they aren’t healthy, it affects our day to day lives.”

Most of us aren’t preparing for an appearance in Sochi next month, but we can all take an important lesson from this study. Oral health has a strong link to our overall wellbeing. In order to be the best version of ourselves we can be, our teeth and gums must be healthy.

Contact us at Robert M. Walley, D.D.S. for a thorough cleaning and dental exam. Professional care combined with an adequate at-home dental hygiene routine is the only way to ensure your smile and overall health are at their peak.