Why Athletes Often Struggle with Gum Disease

Posted Apr 20, 2019 | Share this Online  


They cross the finish line, the crowd goes wild, and the athletes flash a winning grin – full of teeth fraught with tooth decay and gum disease. While being an Olympic athlete is extremely uncommon, what isn’t uncommon is the remarkably high prevalence of gum disease among these upper-tier sports performers. With 97% of participants reporting brushing twice a day and 40% flossing daily, the level of gum disease in these top-performing athletes stunned researchers.

Three Surprising Reasons Why Athletes Have Periodontal Problems

Of the 350 athletes surveyed, researchers discovered that an incredible 77% had gingivitis and only 1% had what could be called “excellent” oral health. These levels of gum disease were astounding when considering how well these athletes were taking care of their teeth.

That begs the question: what gives?

The researchers have three solid hypotheses as to why these Olympic athletes had such high prevalence of gum disease:

  • Blame the carbs. It’s no secret that athletes are heavily reliant on sports drinks, gels, and quick energy foods. A diet high in sugar leads to inflammation and, of course, feeds bacteria.
  • Heavy breathing. Athletes tend to breathe heavier than the general population due to the exertion of their sports. This leads to a dry mouth, giving bacteria a chance to grow unchecked.
  • Elevated stress. High levels of stress can also take their toll on the athletes, raising cortisol and making the body more prone to inflammation. Furthermore, some athletes admitted to vomiting before an event, exposing the gums to stomach acid and more bacteria.
  • Despite taking good care of their oral health, these athletes still had an unusually high level of gum disease, making them noteworthy outliers when compared to the general population.

Fortunately, most of us are not Olympians and brushing twice a day and flossing will be greatly beneficial to us.

Taking time to schedule regular dental appointments is also extremely important, as routine dental exams can help quickly diagnose and allow us to treat any gum disease that you may have. Please give our office a call today to schedule your exam and cleaning to help ensure your healthy teeth and gums.