Today, we’re going to take a break from our local business reviews to get back on the topic of dental health. With the 2016 World Cup around the corner, we’re going to talk about a neat study a stumbled upon on that has to do with (European) football. You might be wondering, “what in the world does football have to do with dental health?”

professional football
Throughout our blog, we’ve already talked a good bit about the fact that poor oral health can affect your body on a larger scale. Tooth loss can lead to digestion issues. Gum disease can lead to high blood pressure. Beyond the obvious reasons, poor oral health often leads to self-esteem and depression problems. Well, this recent study actually found dental health can also affect athletic performance.

Link of Footballers and Gum Disease

The British Journal of Sports Medicine performed a study on professional football players, trying to find out the rate of dental health problems. They also wanted to see if the state of their dental health would affect their well-being or performance ability.

The researchers looked at 187 professional football players from eight different teams throughout England and Wales. They pulled participants from the highest ranking men’s professional teams in the UK. The average age of the players was 24, but they varied from 18 to 39. Six dentists did a comprehensive exam of the oral health of all 187 participants. They were then surveyed on the impact their dental health makes on their lives.

The assessments were shocking. They found that the majority of the players had below average dental health. All of the problems were avoidable, even though three-fourths of the players went on yearly check-ups. Four out of ten professional football players in the United Kingdom had active tooth decay. Eighty-percent of the football players had gum disease.

A large percentage of the study’s participants had irreparable gum disease. About 16% of these players had pain in their mouth. About 27% had sensitivity to cold and hot food and drink, which is indicative of cavities and tooth decay.

Dental Health and Athletic Performance

As with most people, the football players admitted that their oral health affected them daily. Almost half of the players were psychologically concerned about their dental health. About 20% of the players said that the state of their dental health was wreaking havoc on the quality of their life. (Which is a surprisingly low number.) About 7% of the players admitted that their oral health was having negative effects on their practice, performance, and training.

A similar study in 2013 found that Olympic athletes with poor oral health also felt that it negatively impacted their performance. Similar to the study of football players, a significant amount of Olympic athletes also suffered from tooth decay. It makes sense that poor oral health would affect performance. A large part of athleticism stems from practice, well-being, and confidence. Without well-being and confidence, athletes aren’t able to perform to their best ability.

What’s the Cause of These Dental Health Problems?

Why are these professional football player’s teeth in such poor condition? The majority of them go to the dentist regularly. This can’t be chocked up to the old stereotype that people in the UK have bad teeth.

One thing that the majority of all the participants had in common was that they all drank sports drinks. In fact, about two-thirds of them drink sports drinks at least three times a week. Gatorade is highly acidic and sugary. These two factors together are your teeth’s worst nightmare.

It could also be that these football players didn’t take care of their teeth during their formative years. Perhaps, they were too busy getting good at football to make it to the dentist and brush and floss daily. One thing is for certain, these professional players should be educated about their oral health. In general, professional athletes could benefit from education on the effects of sports drinks on teeth.