Everyone loves to have a healthy body but it requires a careful diet and daily exercise which many people do not bother with. Not surprisingly therefore, most people admire professional athletes and look up to them as the epitome of physical health. Quite naturally, one would expect Olympic level sportsmen to be the healthiest specimens of mankind.
However, a physically fit body does not guarantee that an athlete will have good dental hygiene. These and other startling facts were revealed recently in an article by the National Post titled Why many Olympic athletes have terrible dental problems. Paul Piccininni, dental director of the International Olympic Committee, disclosed some rather surprising information about top athletes in the field at a press conference.
According to the director, even though dental problems are highest in the age group 16 – 25 (many athletes fall in this range), some factors unique to athletes are also responsible for the higher levels of oral health problems. For one thing, training regimens and travel schedules often conflict with dental appointments and many athletes are simply too busy to get frequent dental checkups. Dental appointments often get postponed – even if the sportsman is suffering from a mild problem – because of sporting events and such delays frequently lead to the simple problem becoming a more complex one.
While training, many athletes constantly guzzle high-energy drinks filled with acids and sugar (instead of water) which are very harmful to teeth. Additionally, athletes lose a lot of water from the body through sweating which inhibits saliva production in the mouth. This in turn retards the regeneration of tooth enamel leading to problems such as root canals. Athletes in some sports such as rowing or weightlifting clench their teeth when making strenuous physical efforts, grinding them down flat. For instance, an Olympic rower called Campbell was grinding his teeth so much while sleeping that he used to wake up with sore jaws.
Unfortunately, another reason why athletes postponed seeing dentists for the problems was financial constraints. Since treatment at the Olympic games is provided for free, those who cannot afford expensive procedures often wait until the games even if it means living with pain for weeks or even months at a time. Piccininni said that the dental health of athletes was considerably worse than the general population. The article serves to highlight the fact nothing can be a replacement for good oral hygiene habits such as brushing, flossing and frequent checkups – even for Olympians.