The preference for a high carbohydrate diet and acidic sports drinks during training and performance may explain the prevalence of poor dental health among athletes, says a study.
The impact of these contributing factors can be exacerbated by a dry mouth during performance.
Dental consultations accounted for almost a third of all medical visits at London 2012 Olympic Games, and that demand has continued to increase at subsequent major competitive events, the findings showed.
“With clear psycho-social impacts of oral health, it would be surprising if training and performance were not affected in those athletes with poor oral health,” the researchers pointed out.
Athletes with poor dental health are likely to suffer pain, difficulties sleeping and eating, systemic inflammation, a dent to their confidence and may be generally out of sorts, all of which could be detrimental to their performance, the researchers suggested.
The researchers from Britain and North America conducted a thorough review of published evidence, including 39 studies on elite or professional sports and found that poor dental health is widespread.
Tooth decay (dental caries); gum disease (periodontal disease); enamel erosion and infected wisdom teeth (pericoronitis) /impacted molars were the most commonly reported problems.
Tooth decay affected 15-75 percent of athletes; moderate to severe gum disease up to 15 percent; enamel erosion 36-85 percent; and pericoronitis/impacted molars 5-39 percent.
Poor understanding of importance of good dental health on performance and training is also contributing to widespread dental problems among athletes, the study noted.
The study appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.