Sports Drinks Endanger Elite Athletes’ Oral Health

Dentistry Today


While Olympic and professional athletes have better oral hygiene habits than the rest of the population, their reliance on energy drinks and gels is cause for concern, according to the University College London Center for Oral Health and Performance.

Researchers provided dental checkups for more than 350 elite athletes measuring tooth decay, gum health, and acid erosion, revealing substantial oral disease. The researchers also asked the athletes what they did to keep their mouth, teeth, and gums healthy.

“We found that a majority of the athletes in our survey have good oral hygiene habits in as much as they brush twice a day, visit the dentist regularly, don’t smoke, and have a healthy general diet,” said lead researcher Dr. Julie Gallagher.

“However, they use sports drinks, energy gels, and bars frequently during training and competition, and the sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and the acidity of them increases the risk of erosion,” said Gallagher.

“This could be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay we saw during the dental checkups,” Gallagher said. 

The surveyed athlete said they would consider adopting even better oral hygiene habits to tackle these problems, and an intervention study already has been piloted.

“Athletes were willing to consider behavior change related to daily plaque removal, increased fluoride availability, and regular dental visits to improve oral health,” said Gallagher.

“We subsequently asked some of them and support team members to help us design an oral health intervention study based on contemporary behavior change theory, and we will publish the results soon,” said Gallagher. 

The athletes included members of GB Cycling, GB Swimming, GB Rowing, GB Sailing, GB Gymnastics, GB Hockey, GB Athletics, and GB Rugby Sevens plus England Rugby, Reading FC, and Team Sky. 

The study, “Oral Health-Related Behaviours Reported by Elite and Professional Athletes,” was published by BDJ.

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