Why are sportsmen and women more likely to have dental problems?

Athletes belong to a group that is very susceptible to oral pathologies. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be altered by stress, resulting in increased wear and tear and cracks in the teeth, as well as muscular pain caused by the type of diet, which helps plaque to form.

The microbiota in our mouth maintains a delicate balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria, and hygiene is a key factor in this balance. If a lack of hygiene leads to a tooth or gum infection, these bacteria can enter the bloodstream and from there to the rest of the body, including the muscles. If this is the case, muscle fatigue, tiredness and contractures can occur. It also greatly affects the recovery from injuries and makes them slower than usual.

The main factors that favour the appearance of dental problems in elite sportsmen and women are:

Nutritional factors. Athletes frequently consume isotonic drinks which contain large amounts of carbohydrates, water and minerals. When consumption of these drinks is higher than normal, and hygiene does not counteract it, dental problems can occur. In addition, high intake of carbohydrates in the diet increases the risk of tooth decay.

Xerostomia.It is important to know how breathing affects during sport, as the amount of air we take in during sport causes dryness and reduced saliva protection. This dryness is due to the dehydration we suffer during physical exercise and the fact that we breathe through our mouths. We should bear in mind that the stress to which elite sportsmen and women are subjected also increases dry mouth, aggravating these factors.

Dental erosion. Et is an ailment that especially affects swimmers who spend more than 6 hours a week in the pool. This is due to prolonged exposure to chlorine in swimming pools which deteriorates the enamel. An erosion defect can lead to a bad bite, and thereby increase the equilibrium defect.

Dental trauma. The practice of contact sports increases the risk of dental fractures. There are sports in which the use of a mouth guard is compulsory, such as boxing, but others are not, such as football or basketball.

Barodontalgia. It is the tooth pain caused by changes in pressure or altitude and can be a problem for athletes who practice scuba diving or mountain sports. This problem can be caused by the presence of small leaks in teeth restored with fillings or crowns that cause air to accumulate in that part and suffer the consequences of pressure changes. This phenomenon can also be caused by caries or bubbles inside a filling.

Bruxism. Most elite athletes are subjected to a heavy load of stress and this causes bruxism. It is a parafunction (bad habit) during which the teeth are clenched or ground and can be done during the day, but above all we do it unconsciously while we sleep. It has negative consequences for the oral health of the athlete as it leads to tooth wear, very sensitive teeth, cracks and fractures and even tooth loss. In addition, bruxism generates a functional overload, favouring the appearance of muscle contractures that cause head, neck and back pain.

At Vélez y Lozano we stress that the most advisable thing to do is to brush and floss your teeth after every meal, in addition to having at least one annual oral check-up.