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Poor oral health including active caries in 187 UK professional male football players: clinical dental examination performed by dentists
  1. Ian Needleman1,
  2. Paul Ashley2,
  3. Lyndon Meehan3,
  4. Aviva Petrie4,
  5. Richard Weiler5,6,7,
  6. Steve McNally8,
  7. Chris Ayer9,
  8. Rob Hanna10,
  9. Ian Hunt11,
  10. Steven Kell12,
  11. Paul Ridgewell13,
  12. Russell Taylor14
  1. 1Unit of Periodontology, 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. 3Parade House Dental Centre, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4Unit of Biostatistics, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, London, UK
  5. 5West Ham United Football Club, Sports Medicine & Sports Science Department, West Ham United FC Training Ground, Chadwell Heath, Essex, UK
  6. 6University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & UCLH Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, London, UK
  7. 7The FA Centre for Disability Football Research, Burton-Upon-Trent, UK
  8. 8Football Medicine & Science Department, Manchester United Football Club, Manchester, UK
  9. 9Ayer Surgery, Hull, UK
  10. 10Southampton, UK
  11. 11Maple Dental Care, Manchester, UK
  12. 12Lewes High Street Dental Practice, Lewes, UK
  13. 13Swansea, UK
  14. 14Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ian Needleman, Unit of Periodontology, International Centre for Evidence-Based Oral Health, UCL Eastman Dental Institute, 256 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8LD, UK; i.needleman{at}


Background The few studies that have assessed oral health in professional/elite football suggest poor oral health with minimal data on impact on performance. The aim of this research was to determine oral health in a representative sample of professional footballers in the UK and investigate possible determinants of oral health and self-reported impact on well-being, training and performance.

Methods Clinical oral health examination of senior squad players using standard methods and outcomes carried out at club training facilities. Questionnaire data were also collected. 8 teams were included, 5 Premier League, 2 Championship and 1 League One.

Results 6 dentists examined 187 players who represented >90% of each senior squad. Oral health was poor: 37% players had active dental caries, 53% dental erosion and 5% moderate-severe irreversible periodontal disease. 45% were bothered by their oral health, 20% reported an impact on their quality of life and 7% on training or performance. Despite attendance for dental check-ups, oral health deteriorated with age.

Conclusions This is the first large, representative sample study in professional football. Oral health of professional footballers is poor, and this impacts on well-being and performance. Successful strategies to promote oral health within professional football are urgently needed, and research should investigate models based on best evidence for behaviour change and implementation science. Furthermore, this study provides strong evidence to support oral health screening within professional football.

  • Football
  • Dentistry
  • Illness
  • Teeth

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