Sports dentistry is the discipline that studies the influence of oral health in sport and that, through oral care, enables a safer and more pleasant practice. Playing sports is associated with better oral health. However, poor oral health can cause systemic inflammation that can affect the health of our entire body.
Sports dentistry is being taken seriously after becoming aware of its influence on the performance of athletes. This phenomenon has acquired public and media relevance after cases of relevant people from the sports field. There was a known case of a first division footballer who suffered constant cramping in the twins and could not finish the matches. The medical officers of his club looked for the causes from all sides, until in a oral review, they observed hidden cavities. It was by treating them when all their muscle problems were solved.
After examples like this, and in the case of non-traumatic sports injuries, many sports doctors first recommend a dental check-up of the athlete, before looking for other origins.
Sports dentistry: How does oral health influence performance?
Mainly, the oral pathologies that can influence sports performance are infectious processes (caries, periodontal disease, dental erosion and pericoronaritis) and malocclusion.
In the mouth there are many types of bacteria. These accumulate on the surface of the teeth forming the bacterial plaque. A lack of daily oral hygiene causes the accumulation of germs, which can cause tooth decay, periodontal disease in the tissues surrounding the teeth and pericoronaritis (a common picture associated with third molars or wisdom teeth).
If these infectious processes pass into the bloodstream they can affect other organs such as the heart, stomach, liver and skeletal muscle system. The blood is transporting the bacteria to the muscles and joints, producing an asthenia that manifests as muscle fatigue and fatigue in the effort (1).
Infections, muscle fatigue and contractures
When an athlete has oral infections, these favor the contracture and fatigue of the muscles, affecting the postural tonic system and preventing the rapid and effective muscle recovery, and altering sports performance. It is in response to this problem when the proposal of sports dentistry is consolidated.
The malocclusion or bad position of the teeth allows a greater retention of the bacterial plaque that favors the development of dental caries and inflammation of the gums. At this point, it is necessary to mention the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is responsible for joining the jaw and skull, and that forms an important part of the subject's balance, since it is a guide for the body to adopt a good posture. If this balance is broken by extractions of teeth in poor condition that are not replaced, or by a malocclusion that decomposes, joint overload can occur.
To all this overload due to imbalance in the mouth, it should be added that usually an athlete is subjected to stress that favors bruxism. Bruxism is the habit of clenching teeth unconsciously. Because of this habit, the buccal muscles that are related to head, neck and back muscles increase their work, which causes muscle contractures and favors the appearance of headaches and spine.
A good diet is key for the athlete, but be careful ...
A balanced and varied diet with proportionate intake of all food groups is essential for any athlete, with the nuance that more carbohydrates need to be taken if the athlete is undergoing cardiovascular exercise or more protein if he exercises to increase tone muscular.
Either before, during or after exercise, it is advisable to consume carbohydrates to replace the loss of electrolytes and sugars. This contribution is usually made by bars, gels and isotonic drinks, juices, smoothies, all of them very sugary.
If this type of diet is combined with poor oral hygiene, it will cause a higher caries index, since the bacterial action is reinforced with the presence of carbohydrates (3).
What can we do to maintain good oral health?
A compilation of healthy habits to avoid damage to sports performance and the patient's quality of life are:
Go to the dentist every 6 months, for a thorough review and professional cleaning.
Perform an oral hygiene that eliminates the bacterial plaque of all the faces of the teeth, gums and tongue, with brush and floss after each meal.
Have a balanced diet, which covers the energy requirements necessary according to age and sport, avoiding the consumption of sugary drinks. Drink water before, during and after physical activity.
Against any infectious pathology (caries, periodontitis, pericoronaritis).
Before a bad collusion or bad position of the teeth it is necessary to perform orthodontic treatments.
In the presence of bruxism, it is important to use nighttime splints or dental protectors during sports, which will prevent dental fractures in the face of possible trauma.
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06 Jun 2021