Poor Oral Health Can Mean No Olympic Medals

Delta Dental of Arizona | Poor Oral Health Can Mean No Olympic Medals

Since 2004, dentists and volunteers have worked to provide free care to athletes and team officials.

Athletes from all over the world continue to prepare as the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games creep closer and closer, kicking off on August 5th. The life of an elite athlete means to win it all, you have to have it all: the talent, dedication, coaching and nutrition. And just like skipping a day of training, poor oral health can be the difference between podium and last place.

The State of Oral health in Olympic Athletes

In the 2012 Olympics, nearly half of the athletes had not seen a dentist in the past year. And a shocking 75% had diseased gums, according to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Athletes experience dehydration from sweating, refuel with gels and sports drinks and require excessive calories—all factors that can destroy teeth. Experts assume these contribute to Olympians’ (poor) oral health.

Proof from the Past

At the 2012 London Olympics, 1/5 of athletes said their oral health damaged performance for the games.

The trend is not new. At the 1984 Olympics, Michael Jordan had to sit on the sidelines due to a significant dental issue. A more extreme example happened during the 2008 Games. Alan Campbell, a British rower, had an abscessed tooth in the final months leading up to competition. The infection spread to his knee, forcing him to have surgery and keeping him from training for six weeks. After placing fifth in the finals, Campbell admitted his tooth played a role in the disappointing finish: “I certainly would have gone quicker.”

The Plan for Rio

Since 2004, dentists and volunteers have worked to provide free care to athletes and team officials. The initiative continues at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The clinic will have 8 dental chairs; in addition to X-ray machines, root canal specialists and surgical facilities. The clinic will also provide mouthguards and on-site dentists during competition.

The hope is that athletes return home as more than Olympians—but as oral health advocates.

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One Response to “Poor Oral Health Can Mean No Olympic Medals”

  1. Fabey Dental Studios
    08/16/2016 at 5:18 am #

    Rio Olympics are going on and you have shared a great article here. It’s very true that athletes should take care of their health at the time of the Olympics and any other game they participate because their nation, family and all those fans who love sports hope to see them as a winner.

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