Article Text

Oral health and impact on performance of athletes participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games: a cross-sectional study
  1. I Needleman1,
  2. P Ashley2,
  3. A Petrie3,
  4. F Fortune4,
  5. W Turner4,
  6. J Jones4,
  7. J Niggli4,
  8. L Engebretsen5,6,7,
  9. R Budgett7,
  10. N Donos1,
  11. T Clough8,
  12. S Porter9
  1. 1Unit of Periodontology and International Centre for Evidence-Based Oral Health, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, London, UK
  2. 2Unit of Paediatric Dentistry, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, London, UK
  3. 3Unit of Biostatistics, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, London, UK
  4. 4QMUL, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Sports Medicine, Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sports Science, Oslo, Norway
  6. 6Orthopaedic Center, Ullevål University Hospital, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  7. 7International Olympic Committee Medical Commission, Lausanne, Switzerland
  8. 8Dental Practice, Chelmsford, UK
  9. 9Unit of Oral Medicine, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor I Needleman, Unit of Periodontology and International Centre for Evidence-Based Oral Health, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, 256 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8LD, UK; i.needleman{at}


Background Oral health is important both for well-being and successful elite sporting performance. Reports from Olympic Games have found significant treatment needs; however, few studies have examined oral health directly. The aim of this study was to evaluate oral health, the determinants of oral health and the effect of oral health on well-being, training and performance of athletes participating in the London 2012 Games.

Methods Cross-sectional study at the dental clinic within the Polyclinic in the athletes’ village. Following informed consent, a standardised history, clinical examination and brief questionnaire were conducted.

Results 302 athletes from 25 sports were recruited with data available for 278. The majority of athletes were from Africa, the Americas and Europe. Overall, the results demonstrated high levels of poor oral health including dental caries (55% athletes), dental erosion (45% athletes) and periodontal disease (gingivitis 76% athletes, periodontitis 15% athletes). More than 40% of athletes were ‘bothered’ by their oral health with 28% reporting an impact on quality of life and 18% on training and performance. Nearly half of the participants had not undergone a dental examination or hygiene care in the previous year.

Conclusions The oral health of athletes attending the dental clinic of the London 2012 Games was poor with a resulting substantial negative impact on well-being, training and performance. As oral health is an important element of overall health and well-being, health promotion and disease prevention interventions are urgently required to optimise athletic performance.

  • Elite Performance
  • Dentistry
  • Epidemiology
  • Olympics

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