Elite athletes and oral health

Int J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;32(9):720-4. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1277192. Epub 2011 May 17.


Elite athletes follow demanding training regimes to achieve optimal performance. Training incorporates strategies which coincide with risk factors for dental caries and erosion. The important role of a disease-free oral cavity for peak performance is often overlooked and oral health may be compromised. This initial exploratory study aimed to identify risk factors for dental caries and erosion in elite triathletes. Questionnaires regarding training, diet and oral health were distributed to a sample of elite triathletes in New Zealand. A further sample of 10 athletes was randomly selected from the Dunedin triathlon club to participate in a clinical oral examination. Sports drinks were consumed by 83.9% of the triathletes while training; for 48.4% consumption of both sports drinks and water was described as 'little sips often, from a bottle'. Eating during training sessions was reported by 93.5% of participants; of those 62.1% ate only during cycling training. Only 3.2% perceived training as high risk to oral health. All clinical examination cases were assessed as high risk for developing caries. The diet of elite triathletes is consistent with a high risk profile for caries and erosion. Future research should be aimed at oral health promotion programs for the athletes, coaches and oral-health providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Oral Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Oral Hygiene / methods
  • Oral Hygiene / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult