Professional soccer players may have tremendous athletic talents. But their oral health tends to be poor, according to a coalition of researchers in the United Kingdom. And this poor oral health could lead to poor performance on the field and personal well-being off the field.
During the study, 6 dentists examined 187 players who represented greater than 90% of their senior squads, including 5 Premier League teams, 2 Championship teams, and a League One team. The exams were carried out at club training facilities using standard methods and outcomes. The researchers also collected questionnaire data.
According to the results, 37% of players had active dental caries, and 53% saw dental erosion. Also, 8 out of 10 players had gingivitis, with 5% suffering from moderate to severe irreversible periodontal disease. Furthermore, 16% said they had current pain in their mouth or teeth, and 27% reported dental sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink.
Additionally, 45% said they were bothered by their oral health, with 20% reporting an impact on their quality of life, and 7% reporting an effect on training or performance. Nearly two-thirds or 64% said they drank sports drinks at least 3 times a week, though the researchers noted that the connection between these beverages and erosion is unclear.
Despite check-ups, oral health deteriorated with age as well. The authors of the study, then, are now calling for regular dental screenings to be part of routine medical care in professional soccer, along with an increased emphasis on simple preventive approaches to help athletes look after their teeth and gums.
Melanie Prebble, secretary of the British Association of Dental Therapists, believes much more can be done to raise awareness among young men generally about the impact of poor dental health on sports performance and overall health.
“Perhaps if oral health education and prevention were introduced and promoted in high-level sports, it might have a knock-on positive effect on a wider scale, aiding the education of the general public,” Prebble said. “The dental team needs to identify those patients who are at an increased risk of developing dental caries and provide tailored advice on how to better manage the risk.”
The study, “Poor Oral Health Including Active Caries in 187 UK Professional Male Football Players: Clinical Dental Examination Performed By Dentists,” was published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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