Olympians’ bodies must be in top physical condition while training for and competing in the Games. In order to be at peak performance, an athlete’s oral health should also be optimal. For this reason, a dental clinic is established each Olympic year for the athletes and trainers to access in case of a dental emergency. Dentists are stationed at events where there is a high number of orofacial injuries. These sports include basketball, boxing, tae kwan do, water polo, judo, handball and field hockey.
Olympic dentist Dr. Tony Clough explains,
“An athlete cannot perform to his or her best with poor oral health. Wisdom teeth infections and toothaches cause systemic problems, which affect performance and cause an inability to concentrate, train, or sleep.”
The same is true for anyone training for and playing intense sports. Approximately 40 percent of athletic injuries involve the head, face or mouth. The head and face is often the least-protected area of the body when playing sports. Which do you think are the most dangerous to the teeth?
Hockey players are known to have lost up to seven teeth at one time. This number isn’t surprising when pucks are slammed at an average 80-90 mph and fist fights break out just as fast. An extremely physical sport, hockey players anticipate direct hits from opposing players and are at risk of shots to the face.
There are 20,000 injuries reported from cheerleading incidents each year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, this number has increased over six times since 1980. Cheerleaders are at high risk of head, neck and spine injuries due to falls from intricate pyramid builds, tumbling runs gone wrong, and the occasional rogue football…
Baseball pitches can zoom toward a batter’s head at speeds exceeding 90 mph, and if the batter isn’t paying attention may lose some teeth. A softball pitching mound is just 43 feet away from home plate, increasing women’s chance of head injuries. In baseball, that distance is 60.5 feet.
This contact sport has an annual player rate of injury of 4.85 percent. Included in that statistic are 274,255 injuries to the head alone. Players take a beating participating in this sport- direct hits from tackles, whiplash and having a helmet thrown off are expected during a typical game.
Basketball is a fast-paced game with aggressive player contact in the form of fouls and man-on-man defense. A reported 190,167 injuries to the head and mouth occurred last year, out of over 2,560,000 injuries overall.
These numbers shouldn’t deter participation in sports. Instead, remember to wear proper protection when training and competing. Mouth guards and helmets should always be worn when possible, and staying on top of oral cleanings will ensure no pain or infection will be a hindrance to training.