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Did you know that… Athletes may be at an increased risk for dental problems?

Did you know that…


Athletes may be in top physical shape, but may be at an increased risk for dental problems.


Research conducted by Needleman et al during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, showed that athletes experienced poor oral health, including bruxism, erosion, and xerostomia caused by mouth breathing.


Bruxism is clenching or grinding of the teeth. Weightlifting incorporates exercises that demand heavy stress on the muscles, causing athletes to clench their teeth. Chronic clenching can lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) , wear of the enamel, tooth mobility and bone loss. Devices to help prevent these problems are occlusal splints such as mouth guards.


Dental erosion is loss of tooth enamel due to an acidic reaction. Competitive swimmers can experience dental erosion. The chlorine compounds used to disinfect the pool are found to be acidic. When this acidic compound comes in contact with the teeth, enamel erosion is a risk. Teeth erosion is irreversible. Fluoride can help manage and or prevent this problem. Topical fluoride treatments at the dental office or using over the counter fluoride products such as a rinse or toothpaste, can help form a protective layer on the teeth. This can alleviate tooth sensitivity and prevent loss of tooth structure.


Xerostomia is dry mouth caused by mouth breathing. Athletes need more oxygen when performing high energy exercises. This leads to breathing out of their mouths. The dryer the mouth, the more plaque sticks which can cause cavities around the gum line and gum disease. Dry mouth can be treated with products that will stimulate salivary flow. Sugar free gum and sugar free lozenges stimulate saliva. Flavors such as spearmint, cinnamon, and fruity flavors increase the rate of  salivary flow and neutralize the mouth.

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene
August 2016
pages 74-77