How the Olympics are Making Athletes Champions of Oral Health
With the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics right around the corner, athletes all over the world are training for the games. The life of an elite athlete means to win it all, you not only have to have talent, dedication and good coaching, but you need to have great nutrition as well. And just like skipping a day of training, poor oral health can be the difference between podium and last place.
• The State of Oral health in Olympic Athletes
In the 2012 Olympics, nearly half of the athletes had not seen a dentist in the past year. And a shocking 75% had diseased gums, according to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
These athletes train for long periods of time and experience dehydration from sweating requiring them to refuel with sports drinks and take in extra calories. Experts assume that these factors contribute to Olympians’ (poor) oral health.
• Proof from the Past
At the 2012 London Olympics, one-fifth of athletes said their oral health damaged their performance for the games.
The trend is not new. At the 1984 Olympics, Michael Jordan had to sit on the sidelines due to a significant dental issue. A more extreme example happened during the 2008 Games. Alan Campbell, a British rower, had an abscessed tooth in the final months leading up to competition. The infection spread to his knee, forcing him to get surgery and keeping him from training for 6 weeks. After placing fifth in the finals, Campbell admitted his tooth played a role in the disappointing finish: “I certainly would have gone quicker.”
• The Plan for Rio
Since 2004, dentists and volunteers have worked to provide free care to athletes and team officials. The initiative continues at the 2016 Rio Games. The clinic will have eight dental chairs; in addition to X-ray machines, root canal specialists and surgical facilities. The clinic will also provide mouthguards and on-site dentists during competition.
The hope is that athletes return home as Olympians and oral health advocates.
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