Professor Ian Needleman on the jaws of victory

16 August 2012

Professor Ian Needleman with Olympic Torch

I was fortunate enough to be based in the Athletes Village during the 2012 Olympic Games. 

I led a study, on behalf of a team from the Eastman Dental Institute, to investigate the oral health of elite athletes and the impact of oral health on training and performance. The study was conducted with the London 2012 Polyclinic Dental team, led by Professor Fortune from Bart’s and the London NHS Trust.

302 athletes were recruited to the study making it one of the most comprehensive investigations of oral health in elite athletes ever undertaken.

There are many potential threats to oral health in athletes, including exercise-induced immunosuppression and energy drinks high in sugars. Despite this, few studies have been conducted and little is known about the impacts on athletic performance. Several athletes told us how big an affect their oral health has had on them and we will look forward to analysing the data over the next few months.

On behalf of the Eastman Dental Institute I would like to acknowledge the fantastic enthusiasm of the volunteer dental clinic staff who worked hard to conduct the screenings. The research continues the Eastman’s focus on investigating the relationship between oral health and general health and well-being.