Athletes at the peak of health may set world records and win gold medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but there is a way they can be even stronger and more fit.
To help athletes reach the goal of better oral health, a team of volunteer dentists and dental hygienists is manning a dental clinic in the Olympic Village at the London games. The facility is providing dental screenings, routine dental work, emergency care and oral care products to athletes and coaches throughout the duration of the games.
Surprisingly, perhaps, traumatic care is not the service most requested by athletes. It is basic care and restoration, said Paul Warren, Director of Global Professional and Scientific Relations for Procter & Gamble Co., which is providing financial support and Crest and Oral-B products to the clinic.
“We’re there to support the dentists and show the athletes the benefits of prevention,” said Warren, who also is a dentist.
Warren said though the athletes may be superstars in their various sports, they also may come from countries or situations in which preventive oral care is not available.
Many athletes also may have diets that are geared toward optimal performance, but some diets high in calories are not good for their teeth.
“Rowers, for instance, may consume 6,000 or 8,000 calories a day,” said Warren. “To take in that amount of calories they are drinking a lot of sugary drinks and a lot of those drinks are erosive as well.”
The London clinic is furnished with eight operatories and staffed by six dentists and two hygienists. It is open 16 hours a day.
Warren said athletes who have finished competing might find they can take their minds off the games and take advantage of the clinic’s services. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he said, 2,500 people received services at the clinic offered there.
The clinic also provides mouthguards for athletes, and it has a dentist attending some events where a mouth injury is more likely to occur such as field hockey, handball and water polo.
Warren said it is hoped that another long-term effect of having the dental clinic at the Olympics will be to turn athletes into advocates of good oral health care.
“Every athlete has a family and it (the importance of oral health care) will spread by word of mouth,” he said.
When athletes go home with medals around their necks they often become ambassadors for their sports, their countries, and, it is hoped for preventive oral health, Warren said.
It is expected that between 2,000 and 3,000 athletes and coaches will visit the London clinic.