Olympians get cavities, too.
A new report analyzing the oral health of athletes in the London Olympics in 2012 showed that more than half of Olympic athletes who participated in the study had tooth decay, more than three quarters had gingivitis, and 15 percent had periodontitis.
Plus, nearly half of the athletes participating in the study said they felt "bothered by oral health," and more than a quarter said oral health problems even affected quality of life.
"Oral health assessment should be part of every athlete's routine medical care," study researcher Ian Needleman, a professor at the University College London Eastman Dental Institute, said in a statement. "If we are going to help them optimize their level of performance we need to concentrate on oral health promotion and disease prevention strategies to facilitate the health and wellbeing of all our elite athletes."
The study, which is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is based on 302 athletes from Africa, the Americas and Europe, who received oral health checkups at the Dental Clinic in the Olympic Village. While the athletes represented 25 different sports, about 35 percent of them were track and field athletes, 14 percent were boxers, and 11.4 percent were hockey players.
Researchers found high rates of oral health problems, and self-assessments given by the athletes showed that they believed their oral health had an impact on other areas of their life, too. For instance, one in five said training or performance was affected by poor oral health.
In addition, researchers found that many hadn't seen a dentist recently, with nearly half reporting they hadn't undergone an exam or received hygiene care in the last year.
"The oral health of athletes attending the dental clinic of the London 2012 Games was poor with a resulting substantial negative impact on well-being, training and performance," researchers wrote in the study. "As oral health is an important element of overall health and well-being, health promotion and disease prevention interventions are urgently required to optimize athletic performance."
Also on HuffPost:
While dried fruits may be a definite <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/fruit-chew-snacks-ingredients_n_1304369.html">step up from processed fruit snacks</a>, they are still sticky and high in sugar. That means they not only adhere to teeth easily, but the sugar feeds the bacteria in the mouth, which can promote dental erosion, notes Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I'm not saying don't eat them, but just brush your teeth afterward," Dubost says. Messina adds that regular fresh fruits don't typically have this problem because -- even though they still have sugar -- chewing them up promotes saliva and they don't stick to the teeth. "Fruits are generally pretty safe because they're good for overall health <em>and</em> they're chewy, so your average fruit has some substance to it and we chew through it, causing us to salivate more," Messina says. "Saliva is a good thing because it has washing action and it's a nautral buffer [to] acid."
Sugary drinks, such as sodas and sports drinks, are especially bad for teeth when sipping for long periods of time. "If I have a soft drink or sports drink and I'm sipping it every 20 minutes, my teeth are getting bathed with a constant layer of acid," Messina says. "So sitting down and drinking it all at once, or with a meal, is better than snacking or sipping throughout a meal." For this reason, Dubost recommends that parents don't fill their kids' sippy cups with sugary drinks, since kids, whose teeth are still developing, tend to sip at those drinks over long periods of time.
For the same reason sipping on sodas all day is bad for teeth, hard candies aren't ideal for oral health, Dubost notes. These sweets pack a double whammy in that they not only stick to the teeth, but they also linger in the mouth for a long time as you wait for them to dissolve.
You may not realize it, but alcohol can be bad for the teeth, as it causes <a href="http://www.yalemedicalgroup.org/stw/Page.asp?PageID=STW001565">natural saliva production</a> to decrease, according to the Yale Medical Group. And again, saliva helps to wash away food particles and provides a buffer against acid. People who are alcoholics may <a href="http://www.thefix.com/content/sober-teeth?page=all">experience dental and gum disease</a> since "alcohol irritates all the soft tissue in the mouth and it decreases the amount of natural saliva," Dr. Parimal Nagjee, a dentist in Beverly Hills, <a href="http://www.thefix.com/content/sober-teeth?page=all">told The Fix</a>. "In terms of the tissue, the skin of the mouth is very delicate and the alcohol is corrosive to the gums, cheeks and skin. It can affect the way the tissue cells divide, which is why people who drink heavily have a greater chance of getting mouth or throat cancer.”
Foods high in acid, such as citrus or tomatoes, can promote tooth decay, especially when eaten alone, Dubost notes. But these foods are fine to eat so long as you flush your mouth with water after consuming them in order to buffer the acid. Citrus not only has acid, but also sugar -- and people who have a habit of sucking on lemons or limes are actually harmfully bathing their teeth in acid, Messina says. "If you look in their mouths, their teeth have a shiny, glossy surface -- that's from constant bathing with the acids," he says. "They will have almost a peculiar look in that you'll see it on the front surfaces of their teeth, but not the back sides of the lower front teeth because those are under the tongue -- and the tongue protects the surface of teeth."
Starchy foods, such as potato chips and white bread, easily get trapped in teeth, which can then <a href="http://www.yalemedicalgroup.org/stw/Page.asp?PageID=STW001565">feed the bacteria</a> that make up plaque, according to the Yale Medical Group.
Not only do drinks like coffee and tea stain the teeth, they also make the teeth stickier -- meaning more food particles can latch on, Messina says.
Worst Foods For Your Teeth
Dr. Gore recalls the food and beverages with the most harmful effects on your teeth.