Top club footballers suffer from bad teeth. Researchers found four out of 10 footballers have poor dental health, which includes gum disease and dental cavity that can affect their sports performance and overall welfare. Experts suggest urgent dental care is needed.

Findings showed footballers' dental health seem to be poorer compared to the general public. Increased consumption of sports drinks could be a contributing factor, however, experts have yet to discover concrete evidence that connects the two.

The study involved six dentists who covered 187 footballers from eight top clubs including Manchester United, Hull, Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham, Swansea City, Sheffield United, Southampton and Cardiff. After a thorough examination of the players' gums and teeth, they answered questions about the influence of dental health on their professional and personal lives.

Findings showed that 73 percent of the footballers visited a dentist in the past 12 months. The dentists found that 37 percent had at least one decayed tooth and a whopping 77 percent needed tooth fillings. Some footballers needed more than five tooth fillings. As a whole, 84 percent of the footballers had at least one filled or decomposed tooth.

Less than a quarter, at 22 percent, admitted to having a traumatic history that involves their face and teeth because of the sport. In terms of lifestyle, 64 percent of the footballers reported drinking sports drinks three times in a week while 5 percent said they used smokeless tobacco either chewed or snuffed.

A little over half, at 53 percent, of the footballers suffer from dental erosion, wherein acid wears away the tooth. Seventy-seven percent of the players have half their mouths plagued with gingivitis (gum inflammation).

One in 10 footballers experience regular toothache. Twenty-seven percent have tooth sensitivity. Sixteen percent suffer from pain in their mouths and eight percent underwent at least one incident of open sore and ulcer.

At 45 percent, nearly half of the footballers admitted to being troubled by their dental health. Twenty percent said their bad teeth affect their life quality while seven percent said it affects their performance or training.

"These are individuals who otherwise invest so much in themselves so it's a surprising finding," said Professor Ian Needleman who was part of the research team. "At this level of athlete, even small differences can be quite telling,"

Scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, Professor Damien Walmsley said that teeth erosion is likely to be caused by high intake of fizzy or sports drinks after a training or a game. While sports drinks do not always contain high amounts of sugar but the high acidity level is capable of irreversibly damaging the teeth.

The researchers published their study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Nov. 2.

Photo: Irina Patrascu Gheorghita | Flickr

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