10/07/2013 05:53 pm ET

Olympians Affected By Oral Health Issues, Study Shows


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."



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