Professional soccer players are failing to take adequate care of their teeth, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The study found that many players have problems like dental erosion, cavities, and dental pain - which in turn affects their ability to play. Even if you're still a child or teen playing at a local level, it is important to take note of the study, since the same issues could affect you. Most importantly, the researchers found that the culprit could be poor dental hygiene, spurred on by the excessive consumption of sugary energy drinks. Consuming a healthy, low-sugar diet is important not only to boost your performance, but also to ensure that dental problems don’t stop you from giving your best on the field.
Why are Energy Drinks so Bad for Teeth?
The high sugar content of many energy drinks is bad in itself, but these drinks are also high in acid. In a study published in General Dentistry, researchers found that energy drinks contain high levels of citric acid, which is used to enhance flavor and increase a product’s shelf life. Acid wears away at the enamel of teeth, rendering them more susceptible to cavities. The researchers noted that teens in particular were in danger, since they are big consumers of these drinks. The situation can be even worse for soccer players, who turn to energy drinks to give them a boost on the field. Dentists recommend that parents teach kids to care for teeth by avoiding sugary drinks (including juices), which can settle into gaps in teeth and cause cavities to form.
The Effect of Soccer Players’ Diets
In the above-mentioned study, researchers noted that three quarters of the players surveyed visited their dentist at least once a year. This led to confusion about why their oral health was so poor. Another study by Professor Ian Needleman found that dental problems affected a high percentage of elite athletes. The latter reported that these issues affected their sporting performance, ability to relax and sleep, and their ability to smile with confidence. The researchers postulate that poor diet could be the cause. In essence, soccer players are used to training and they burn up to 300 calories per half hour of play. With their high fitness levels, they sometimes feel like they can ‘get away’ with refined carb-rich snacks, without realizing the effects that these foods can have on their oral health.
The Effect that Contact Sports can Have on Teeth
Soccer players can protect their teeth in another way: by wearing a mouthguard. Like football or hockey, soccer is considered a contact sport, one in which players can bump each other unwittingly by aiming for a header, or fall onto the floor, potentially breaking teeth or causing injury to the teeth, gums, and jaw. You can ask your dentist to create a custom mouthguard, or purchase one at a lower cost over the counter. If you are a young player, talk to your trainer about the possibility of using guards during training and games.
Soccer players, like fervent athletes taking part in other sports, can be prone to dental decay and oral pain. Keeping decay at bay is a matter of consuming a sound Mediterranean-style diet (which is low in refined carbs and sugars), taking care of teeth daily by brushing and flossing after meals, and using a mouthguard if possible. Seeing a dentist twice a year is also recommended if you are prone to cavities. Removing decay early and conducting thorough cleanings are key to ensuring soccer players avoid the pain and discomfort associated with infections and tooth loss.