18% of London 2012 athletes ‘had poor oral health’

ELITE athletes are suffering from poor performances because they are failing to look after their teeth properly, a group of health experts have warned.

A new study has found that poor dental health may adversely affect an athlete's performance. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Simple measures such as flossing could provide the same marginal performance gains as expensive physical therapies, according to research carried out at the University College London.

In a survey of London 2012 Olympic athletes, carried out by UCL and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 18 per cent said their oral health had a negative impact on their performance and 46.5 per cent had not been to the dentist in the past year.

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Professor Ian Needleman, of UCL’s Eastman dental institute, who led the research, said more action needs to be taken to improve the oral health of both amateur and elite athletes which shows “no signs of improvement”.

“Oral health could be an easy win for athletes, as the oral conditions that can affect performance are all easily preventable,” he said in a report.

“Professional athletes and their teams spend a lot of time and money on ways to marginally improving performance, as this can make all the difference in elite sports.

“Simple strategies to prevent oral health problems can offer marginal performance gains that require little to no additional time or money.

“Things like better tooth brushing techniques and higher fluoride toothpastes could prevent the toothache and associated sleeping and training difficulties that and can make the difference between gold and silver.”Dr Mike Loosemore, a consultant at UCL’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health who was also England’s chief medical officer at this year’s Commonwealth Games, described the warning as “important” adding that it could have a positive effect on elite sportsmen and women.