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Study: Athletes Tend to Have Terrible Oral Health, Despite Brushing Regularly

Are your kids athletes that often consume sports drinks? They likely have poor dental health, even if they brush. A new study of elite athletes found many have poor oral health despite brushing and flossing regularly. Many of these athletes consume sports drinks, which dentists will tell you are horrible for your teeth.

The Findings

The UCL Eastman Dental Institute research team surveyed 352 Olympic and professional athletes across 11 sports, including cycling, swimming, rugby, football, rowing, hockey, sailing and athletics. They provided dental checkups and measured tooth decay, gum health and acid erosion. They also asked the athletes about their oral health habits.

Nearly half (49.1%) had untreated tooth decay, the large majority showed early signs of gum inflammation, and almost a third (32%) reported that their oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance.

That’s despite the fact that 94% reported brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and 44% reported regularly cleaning between their teeth (flossing) — substantially higher figures than for the general population (75% for twice-daily brushing and 21% for flossing).

Sport Drinks to Blame

But the athletes also regularly use sports drinks (87%), energy bars (59%) and energy gels (70%), which are known to damage teeth.

“We found that a majority of the athletes in our survey already have good oral health related habits in as much as they brush their teeth twice a day, visit the dentist regularly, don’t smoke and have a healthy general diet,” said researcher Dr Julie Gallagher (UCL Eastman Dental Institute Centre for Oral Health and Performance).

“However, they use sports drinks, energy gels and bars frequently during training and competition; the sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and the acidity of them increases the risk of erosion. This could be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay and acid erosion we saw during the dental check-ups.”

The study was published in the British Dental Journal.

If you or your children actively consume energy drinks, consider switching to water instead. It’s better for your body, especially for dental health.

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