A study carried out towards the end of last year showed that footballers had worse oral health than the average person in the UK, and researchers claim this could have a negative impact on their ability to perform on the football pitch.

Here at CK Dental practice in Bristol, we see a lot of patients with tooth decay and many of them find it difficult to see a link between dental health problems and the ability to do their job, so we wanted to explain how problems with your teeth can reach further than you might expect.

The study

The researchers, from the International Centre for Evidence-Based Oral Health at University College London, looked at 187 players from eight football clubs in England and Wales. They found that around 40% had tooth decay, compared to about 30% of their peers in the non-footballing population.

They also found that 53% had dental erosion and 45% were bothered by their dental health, with 7% claiming it affected their ability on the pitch.

Why would it have this effect?

Toothache is widely acknowledged to be one of the most debilitating pains, as it affects not just the mouth, but the head, neck and even ears, making it difficult to concentrate, hold a conversation or even sleep.

According to Professor Ian Needleman, one of the researchers, “There are two main groups [among the footballers] – some have a catastrophic effect, they have very severe abscesses that stop them in their tracks and they cannot play or train.

“There’ll be others experiencing pain affecting sleeping or sensitivity every time they take a drink.”

Why footballers?

It seems strange that people who otherwise take such care of themselves physically should disregard their dental health, and the researchers did not find conclusive evidence to explain the problem. Theories include a high intake of sugary sports drinks to boost energy, or the fact that a lot of air circulate in the mouth during play, decreasing levels of saliva, which helps to protect the teeth.

Whatever the reasons behind it, it is clear to the team here at Bristol dental practice CK Dental that we all need to take better care of our teeth to avoid unnecessary interruption of our careers and daily routine.