London 2012 Athletes Had Poor Oral Health

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The BBC recently interviewed Ian Needleman, director of the International Centre for Evidence-Based Oral Health at University College London (UCL), about the oral health condition of London 2012 Olympic athletes.

Needleman’s oral health team provided free dental check-ups and sports mouth guards to Olympic athletes during the 2012 Games, using data obtained for research into the oral health condition of world Olympic athletes.

Of athletes researched originating from different countries and sports backgrounds, almost 50 percent reported experiencing traumatic dental conditions, including dental erosion, and not having a dental check-up within 12 months. Around 40 percent of athletes felt that their oral health condition impacted their performance ability.

Severe oral health conditions including periodontitis, a gum disease causing tooth loss, were identified in numerous young athletes at the London 2012 Olympics. The findings were considered surprising, considering the health and fitness levels expected to achieve Olympic success.

Contributing factors to poor oral health of Olympic athletes identified by the researchers include: stress from intensive training weakening the immune system; excessive sugary energy drinks and carbohydrate foods eroding tooth enamel and gum tissue; neglect of oral health due to focus on Olympic training.

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