Why Olympic Athletes Often have Bad Teeth

“They have bodies of Adonis and a garbage mouth,” said Olympic Dental Director for the International Olympic Committee, Paul Piccininni.

No one knows exactly why, but olympic athletes are infamous for having bad teeth (and it sometimes affects their performance). Abscesses, broken teeth, decay, gingivitis, and other dental problems plague the athletes at a rate higher than does the average American. Here are a few reasons, however, that a dentist in the olympic village sees more patients with more serious problems in two weeks than the average dentist sees in a month.(Just to give an idea, in the London games of 2012, the 30 dentists there saw 1,900 patients in 2 weeks).

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1.) Treatment at the Olympics is free. Olympic athletes know that if they have a tooth that is bothering them but can just hold out until the games, their treatment will come at no cost to them. For athletes without the financial resources to pay for their own care, it makes bearing through the pain necessary. Unfortunately, dental problems only get worse with time, which is one reason why athletes come to the games with such bad teeth.

2.) Olympic Athletes are often 16-24 . For the general population, dental problems peak between the ages of 16 and 24. This is because it’s the ages when people are leaving home, forming their own schedules and routines, and regular dental hygiene routines like brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist get overlooked. Olympic athletes, in addition to having these normal changes, have abnormally demanding training schedules and traveling which worsens the “I haven’t brushed in days,” problem that often plagues that age group.

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3.) Olympic Athletes are under high pressure . When they are under pressure to perform, many athletes grit or grind their teeth (during practice and at night). The enamel of the teeth is extremely hard, but it’s no match for the enamel on the opposing teeth. Broken and cracked teeth also appear in athletes participating in high impact sports like field hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, basketball, and other sports. Mouth guards help curb the problem, but when only 350 athletes of the thousands who participated in London took one, it’s easy to see why so many athletes broke teeth that year.

4.) Athletes drink a lot of sugary drinks. For energy and recovery, athletes are constantly taking in carbs. Many athletes eat 6,000 calories a day, eating small meals before, during, and after training. Most people brush after every meal, but when you eat 5 meals a day… most athletes aren’t concerned enough to tote along their toothbrush for that.

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At the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, there are 8 dental chairs, X-ray machines, surgical facilities, and full-time dentists on standby (including endodontists for emergency root canals.) Hopefully none of the athletes are negatively affected by their teeth, but if they are, it wouldn’t be the first time!

Dr. Chavez, a great dentist in Provo , is a huge fan of the Olympics. He loves talking to his patients about the U.S. Olympic medal count, surprising wins, and his favorite event, gymnastics. Call his office today at 801-426-6255 to schedule an appointment for you and your family. Although he has no gold medal, Dr. Chavez is the best dentist in Provo (if not the best dentist in Utah.)

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