The latest EFP Perio Talks podcast features British Olympian and European champion rower Lucy Glover talking with Ian Needleman, professor of periodontology at UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London, about oral health and sports performance.
The podcast, hosted by Bruno de Carvalho, focuses on the high levels of tooth decay and gum problems among elite athletes, the possible reasons for this, its potential impact on performance, and what positive things athletes can do to improve their oral health.
Prof Needleman explains the latest epidemiological research showing that oral health among elite athletes is generally poor, to the extent that “participating in sport at an elite level disadvantages the oral health of athletes.”
He says it is important to go beyond simply putting the blame on the sugary, high-carbohydrate drinks and gels that athletes consume to boost their energy levels. Other factors are involved, including possibly the physiological effects of high-intensity training.
Needleman, who has worked with sports organisations including the International Olympic Committee, to raise awareness of oral-health issues, calls for mitigating strategies to reduce risk, suggesting that athletes use high-fluoride toothpaste and rinse their mouths with water after using sports drinks or gels.
Lucy Glover, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and won a gold medal in the quadruple skulls in this year’s European championships in Munich, tells Perio Talks about her own dental problems and how the pain from infected wisdom teeth was so bad that “I couldn’t open my mouth”.
Now she has changed her oral-health routines and wants more to be done to encourage fellow athletes to do the same.