Int J Sports Med 2011; 32(9): 720-724
DOI: 10.1055/s-0031-1277192

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Elite Athletes and Oral Health

S. Bryant1 , K. McLaughlin1 , K. Morgaine1 , B. Drummond1
  • 1University of Otago, Oral Sciences, Dunedin, New Zealand
Further Information

Publication History

accepted after revision April 01, 2011

Publication Date:
17 May 2011 (online)


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.


  • 1 Ainamo J, Barmes D, Beagrie G, Cutress T, Martin J, Sardo-Infirri J. Development of World Health Organisation CIPTN 1982.  Int Dent J. 1982;  32 28-91
  • 2 Borg A, Birkhed D. Dental caries and related factors in a group of young Swedish athletes.  Int J Sports Med. 1987;  3 234-235
  • 3 Bruins GJ, Vissink A, Veerman EC, van Nieuw Amerongen A. Influence of sports on saliva.  Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd. 2008;  115 467-473
  • 4 Burke LM, Slater G, Broad EM, Haukka J, Modulon S, Hopkins WG. Eating patterns and meal frequency of elite Australian athletes.  Int J Sports Nutr. 2003;  13 521-538
  • 5 Eccles JD, Jenkins WG. Dental erosion and diet.  J Dent. 1974;  2 153-159
  • 6 Harriss DJ, Atkinson G. International Journal of Sports Medicine – Ethical Standards in Sport and Exercise Science Research.  Int J Sports Med. 2009;  30 701-702
  • 7 Jarvinen VK, Rytomaa II, Heinonen OP. Risk Factors in dental erosion.  J Dent Res. 1991;  70 942-947
  • 8 Lussi A, Jaeggi T. Erosion – diagnosis and risk factors.  Clin Oral Invest. 2008;  12 (suppl 1) 5-13
  • 9 Mathew T, Casamassimo PS, Hayes JR. Relationship between sports drinks and dental erosion in 304 university athletes in Columbus, Ohio, USA.  Caries Res. 2002;  36 281-287
  • 10 Milosevic A, Kelly MJ, McLean AN. Sports supplement drinks and dental health in competitive swimmers and cyclists.  Br Dent J. 1997;  182 303-308
  • 11 Milosevic A. Sports drinks hazard to teeth.  Br J Sports Med. 1997;  31 28-30
  • 12 Piccininni PM, Fasel R. Sports dentistry and the Olympic Games.  Oral Health. 2005;  95 52-71
  • 13 Rugg-Gunn AJ, Hackett AF, Appleton DR, Jenkins GN, Eastoe JE. Relationship between dietary habits and caries increment assessed over two years in 405 English adolescent school children.  Arch Oral Biol. 1984;  29 983-992
  • 14 Sirimaharaji V, Brearley Messer L, Morgan MV. Acidic diet and dental erosion among athletes.  Aust Dent J. 2002;  4 228-236
  • 15 Soames JV, Southam JC. Oral Pathology.. 4th ed Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998: 41
  • 16 SPARC Carded Athlete Programme (last accessed 17 April 2010)
  • 17 Studen-Pavlovich D, Bonci L, Etzel KR. Dental implications of nutritional factors in young athletes.  Dent Clin North Am. 2000;  44 161-179
  • 18 World Health Organisation . Indices and methods for measurements of dental diseases, WHO Oral Health Surveys: Extracts from WHO Oral Health Surveys, 4th ed., 1997; 

1 Carding is the formal recognition by both the appropriate National Sporting Organisation (in this case Athletics NZ) and the New Zealand Academy of Sport of an athlete's potential or actual international performance at a pinnacle sporting event such as the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics [16].


Kate MorgaineMPH 

University of Otago

Oral Sciences

Faculty of Dentistry


New Zealand 9010

Phone: +64/3/479 7113

Fax: +64/3/479 7113