According to a recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, nearly four out of 10 football players in around eight clubs in England and Wales have cavities. The medical staff for West Ham United football team have even reported that the athletes’ teeth are in poorer condition than those of the general population.
How could these footballers have such poor dental health? According to research, the culprit may very well be a diet high in sugar.
Dentists from the Centre For Evidence-Based Oral Health studied the teeth of 187 football players and found that over half (54%) of all players had dental erosion, and 45% were bothered by the state of their oral health. And of that 45%, 7% reported that it was affecting their ability to train and play.
While almost 75% of people feel that a poor-looking smile can hurt their career prospects, footballers’ discomfort, more than the appearance of their grin, seems to be hurting their careers.
“There are two main groups — some have a catastrophic effect, they have very severe abscesses that stop them in their tracks and they cannot play or train,” said Prof Ian Needleman, one of the researchers for the study.
“There’ll be others experiencing pain affecting sleep or sensitivity every time they take a drink. At this level, even small differences can be quite telling.”
While a diet high in sugary or acidic foods is the main culprit, researchers surmise that exercise itself could exacerbate the effects, as it can dry out the mouth, making it susceptible to more decay without protection.
While these findings are indeed worrisome, it provides an opportunity to educate players on the importance of oral hygiene and a proper diet.
And perhaps footballers aren’t the only ones who need a lesson on oral hygiene. In fact, findings from previous research shows that there were striking levels of poor oral hygiene among all athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games.