The Independent have today highlighted a study that is due to be published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology showing 49.1% of elite British athletes have tooth decay, with two thirds reporting their on-field performance is affected by it.
The study looked at 350 sportsmen and women from nine GB Olympic teams, Team Sky, England Rugby and Reading Football Club. It has reportedly found that, despite 97% of the athletes brushing their teeth twice a day (only 44% of men and 37% of women in the general population brush their teeth twice a day according to a Yahoo poll), they had a significantly higher occurrence of tooth decay and gum disease, with the odds being a further 2.4 times higher in team sport than endurance sport.
Possible reasons for the findings included the mouth becoming dry in sports, such as running and cycling, where athletes are breathing hard as well as a link (found in other studies) between high intensity training and lower quality saliva. Unsurprisingly though, the biggest highlighted factor was the use of energy drinks, gels etc. The drive from sports nutritionists towards frequent carbohydrate intake through these means greater exposure to one of the most well known causes of tooth decay and gum disease.
Extreme behaviours give rise to extreme outcomes and those outcomes are not always beneficial. Of the elite and Olympic level athletes I know, most believe in a good balanced diet washed down with plenty of water but the choice is yours.
If you’re going to take the time to practice, practice like the elite.