Dental Tribune Pakistan

Sports players’ oral health: The overlooked realm

By Dr Hiba Shams
October 07, 2021

Good oral health can let athletes participate and win in a big game. The pain related to poor oral health can restrict the ability of sports players to focus on performance and even disqualify them from the competition.

Sports and oral health

Nowadays, the sports industry, especially the professional and elite one, is growing interest in dental health due to its lasting impact on the performance of athletes. The sports players' health, well-being, and physical performance and skills are affected negatively due to the changes in the oral cavity.

Possible reasons for athletes' poor oral health

There is a high prevalence of dental caries and periodontal diseases in this group. The possible reason athletes are a high-risk group would be a high intake of carbohydrates to boost energy, acidic energy drinks and dry mouth due to vigorous exercises. Studies have also shown that sportspeople tend to have little knowledge or awareness of oral health.

The increase in oral respiration during intensive training loads is another crucial factor in athletes' dental morbidities. It decreases the salivary flow rate and makes the mouth an ideal place for bacteriae to strive.

Consequences of traumatic injuries in sports

Moreover, intense physical exercises also make athletes prone to traumatic injuries and joint disorders. These injuries might lead to occlusal alterations. These alterations may have significant consequences. As they affect chewing efficacy, subsequently leading to food indigestion and impaired nutrition absorption. Other impacts would be muscle imbalance, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, headache, stress and discomfort.

Athletes' pain tolerance can be the reason

Dental problems and pain go hand in hand. The ability to perceive pain in athletes is often diminished due to their vigorous training. On the other hand, pain can restrict the ability to focus on performance. Sometimes, it disqualifies the athlete from the game and can even end sporting careers. Therefore, pain tolerance often increases in athletes.

This absence or diminished pain perception is often one of the reasons for the course of oral problems in athletes, which leads to ignorance in the cleanliness of the oral cavity. It ultimately results in chronic dental issues. This type of damage often occurs without symptoms. It leads to periodontal diseases and functional disorders in the form of hypertonicity of the masticatory muscles, dysfunction of the TMJ, bone loss, mobile teeth, discolouration, etc.

Good oral health can boost performance

So, concerned authorities need to pay special attention to athletes' oral health. It can improve their general health, quality of life, and the influence it likely may have on sports performance. Dentists should participate in assessing the health status of athletes.

Furthermore, the coaches, sports clubs and federations should understand the importance of promoting preventive and oral health assessment programs among sports players of all kinds. It can not only increase oral health awareness but reduce risk factors for developing oral diseases.

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