Becoming a sports dentist – Neil PhotayFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 6th June 2018
Sports dentistry is a specialist discipline in its own right. Although huge in the USA, it is less well known in the UK, but is considered to be one of the most recent and upcoming fields in dentistry. Since the 2012 Olympics resided in London, the oral health status of sports people in the UK has been increasingly considered, as experts better understand the link between improved well being and performance. There are specific courses teaching sports dentistry and cover the range of subjects required to be qualified, including treating facial and dental injuries, understanding how to prevent problems in the first place and how to improve the oral health of sports people.
Sports dentistry originated in Texas, USA, in 1983 and was then a platform for dentists, physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, dental technicians and educators to converse, exchange information, research and evolve sports dentistry.[i]As the number of sports has expanded, participation levels have increased and interest from a commercial aspect has escalated, it is now a thriving and interesting specialty to be in.
Why specialise in sports dentistry?
A systematic review in 2015 looked at the data on the epidemiology of oral disease and trauma in the elite athlete population and investigated the impact of oral health on sporting performance. The literature search used 34 relevant studies and concluded that the “oral health of athletes is poor”.[ii] The review included statistics on dental trauma, oral diseases such as periodontal disease and dental erosion and, interestingly, the impact of negative oral health on athlete performance.
At the London Olympic Games, an oral health study was completed with athletes and echoed similar findings to the systematic review: “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.”[iii] This was a turning point for sports dentistry in the UK as more resource and funding was devoted to the cause.
What’s it like being a sports dentist?
Sports dentists are most likely to encounter athletes at their surgery (either in a preventative or restorative capacity), or may be present at the actual sporting events to deal with immediate issues. Sports dentists need to be able to work alongside medically qualified colleagues, as well as assisting and advising sports coaches, trainers and managers. A sports dentist needs to educate colleagues and peers as the expert in this speciality, especially in situations of dental trauma when a dentist is not present.
Professional sports clubs are increasingly employing a dedicated sports dentist as they recognise the impact of poor oral health on the individual, the club and often the business. Sportspeople with chronic oral health issues take time off from training, miss competitions and display substandard performance. Sports dentists can work with clubs using a proactive and preventative approach (rather than dealing with the outcome of poor maintenance and protection), to screen for issues before they become a bigger problem.
Who are the patients?
Many professional sportspeople are from the younger generation and so a sports dentist needs to be aware of the most common oral health issues seen in this age group, such as wisdom teeth eruption and associated conditions, like pericoronitis. Sports professionals also consume a lot larger quantities of carbohydrates compared to the average person of the same age, and are more inclined to use sports drinks to help enhance their endurance and performance levels, all having a negative effect on their dental health.
Because so many youngsters are involved in sports, whether professionally or as an amateur, or just playing at school, it is a dentist’s responsibility to help to minimise the risk of trauma to their dentition by making the patient aware of the options available. Mouth guards are an easy, relatively inexpensive and effective means of protecting the dentition of any person involved in sports, especially those in contact sports. Saber Protect mouth guards are custom-made giving total peace of mind and are available in different layers of protection depending upon the sport being played and the level it is played at. Further still, particularly relevant to the younger generation, is that the Saber Protect custom-made mouth guards’ colour and style can be personalised too.
Dentistry has so many options and opportunities available to those who work within it. Sports dentistry is just one of the up and coming specialties that allows dentists to make a difference to their patients’ lives.
Saber Protect custom-made mouth guards are fabricated by CosTech Dental Laboratory. For more information, please visit
[i]http://www.academyforsportsdentistry.org/about-us[Accessed December 2017]
2. “Oral health of elite athletes and association with performance: a systematic review”. P Ashley, A Di Iorio, E Cole, A Tanday, and I Needleman. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jan; 49(1): 14.
3. “Oral health and impact on performance of athletes participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games: a cross-sectional study.” I Needleman, P Ashley, A Petrie, F Fortune, W Turner, J Jones, J Niggli, L Engebretsen,R Budgett, N Donos, T Clough, S Porter. British Journal of Sports Medicine