How does dental health affect your performance as an athlete? Do you not improve your marks? Maybe you should go to the dentist…

Sports dentistry studies the influence of each type of sport on oral health and, through adequate oral care, makes it possible for the patient to practice sports in a pleasant and safe manner.

In the world of sports, the correct maintenance of oral health is becoming increasingly important. Even so, dentistry seems to be the least relevant discipline in terms of regular check-ups. Athletes and sportsmen, both practitioners and professionals, must undergo such check-ups.

The importance of sports dentistry

Sports dentistry is an area of sports medicine that deals with everything related to the interaction between dentistry and sports, with the main objective of increasing sports performance as well as the quality of life of athletes.

The relationship between sport and dentistry may not be easy to see a priori. But, in the end, the connection between the two is much closer than it might seem at first sight.

Any disease in our mouth can produce more serious problems in the rest of our body. In cases of infection, bacteria accumulated in the oral cavity pass into the bloodstream. Thus, it can be considered that oral health in sport is also essential for the good performance of the athlete.

There is a relationship between dental health and sports performance. A large number of joint and muscle injuries are the result of dental or tooth infections. These infections have a great influence on the performance of an athlete. Millions of bacteria accumulate in the mouth and form so-called bacterial plaque on the teeth.

Caries and periodontal diseases can be the result of a severe accumulation of plaque due to poor oral hygiene. These bacteria, which live in the mouth, produce inflammatory mediators which, through the blood, are distributed throughout the body. Sensation of joint fatigue or inflammation, tears and joint pain can be produced due to this phenomenon.

The sportsman or woman does not usually relate his or her discomfort or the drop in performance to oral problems. But, in fact, on many occasions they are the cause. Thus, the patient can drag the pain for years without eliminating it, a fact that would be reversible with a simple caries treatment, for example.

In this sense, more and more coaches are insisting on the care of their athletes’ mouths and are asking a team of dentists to check their athletes’ teeth.

Some periods of poor sports results can be caused by different problems in the mouths of athletes, leading to a decrease in their physical capacity.

Main oral injuries and oral diseases associated with sport

Malocclusions, for example, can cause a decline in performance of athletes. If the upper and lower teeth are not aligned, the closure must be forced. And as a consequence, incorrect chewing can lead to neck and back muscle pain or defects in balance.

Elite athletes are often more prone to tooth decay, largely due to an unfavourable diet rich in carbohydrates. Other risk factors are frequent intake of highly acidic sweetened drinks, excessive training, lack of education in oral hygiene, or loads due to oral parafunctions. In this sense, cavities are capable of affecting the muscles, or even causing cramps, until the performance of the athlete is affected.

There are some sports, such as contact sports, in which blows to the mouth are more frequent, causing fractures or loss of teeth. It is important to work on prevention, through the use of personalized mouth protectors, and also on the repair of the pieces, if necessary. These preventive and curative dental actions are vital to ensure optimal performance and general health of the sportsperson.

Optimal oral health not only improves, but also maintains, the performance of athletes. However, the oral care of a large number of sportsmen and women is below the average level of the general population. Amateur athletes and young people, because they do not receive guidance or training on oral health, are at the greatest risk of suffering oral injuries.

Dental health in your sports performance

Good dental health helps you keep the weight off. Different studies have shown that a correct chewing technique of the food helps to control the intake of calories. Therefore, it is worth solving problems derived from malocclusion.

Who has not suffered from a bad workout due to poor digestion? If your teeth are in good shape, you will have better digestion in races and training. Not only will you be better able to digest the food you have eaten just before, your stomach will be healthier and less overloaded.

Poor digestion can lead to a number of problems that can affect your health, such as diarrhoea, which in the long run could lead to a deficit of nutrients and vitamins.

Cavities, gingivitis and infections lead to weakness and fever. They reduce both your ability to train and to perform. But they also put your body on alert, lower your defenses and make it easier to catch other performance-impairing diseases.

When there is a dental infection, muscle contraction worsens and the risk of muscle fibre breakdown increases.

It has been proven that the existence of infectious focuses in the mouth, is the cause of certain muscle and joint injuries. Even if the infection is located in the mouth, the pathogenic germs spread through the blood and cause a generalized infection of the whole organism (sepsis), which may cause alterations in distant areas.

In the athlete these pathogens may be deposited in muscles and joints, causing chronic tears, injuries at the level of the tendons or pain in the joints.

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