Dental Trends in Carb-Driven Athletes

There are many causes of poor oral health: poverty, lack of awareness, laziness, and being a great athlete. The first three causes are obvious; but the last one, unless you’re a great athlete yourself, may have caught you by surprise. But if you look at a study based on the oral health of 2012 London Olympians, you’ll find that the trend is real.

The study involved an oral health check-up and a survey for each athlete. They found that 55 percent of the study’s athletes suffered from dental carries (tooth decay), of which 41 percent was into the dentine (the point where the decay is irreversible). Three quarters of the athletes had gingivitis (gum inflammation) and 15 percent showed signs of periodontitis (irreversible gum infection in the soft tissue around the teeth). These numbers are very similar to what you would find among the most disadvantaged populations.

The survey result however may be a little biased. First, these are Olympic athletes; so their commitment to training is well above the average or even the better than average athlete. Also, the survey asked questions to 302 athletes from 25 different sports. But the major sports were track and field (95 athletes, 34.9 percent of the respondents), boxing (38 athletes, 14 percent of the respondents) and hockey (31 athletes, 11.4 percent of the respondents). So basically, the survey was biased toward athletes involved in endurance-based sports. These sports require a ton of carbohydrate consumption (as opposed to weightlifters, who consume less carbs and more protein). Carbohydrates are a major cause of poor oral health, so when considering the response sample, the high level of bad oral hygiene shouldn’t be too surprising.

If you’re a carb-driven athlete, this is your wake-up call to work as hard for your dental health as you do for your physical health.