Eastman Dental Institute


New research: better oral health for footballers needed

3 November 2015


A new study by the Centre for Oral Health and Performance – part of UCL Eastman - has found that the oral health of professional footballers is poor and impacting on wellbeing and performance.

Of 187 players examined* and questioned 37% had active dental decay, 53% dental erosion and 5% moderate to severe and irreversible gum disease.

Furthermore, 45% were concerned by their oral health, 20% reported an impact on their quality of life and 7% on training or performance.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggest an urgent need for new strategies to promote oral health within the professional game.

Research lead, Professor Ian Needleman, said: “The involvement of these clubs was fantastic in what is the first study of this size and scope to collect comprehensive oral health data from players.

“Although the severity of oral ill-health varied from team to team, overall we found that a significant percentage of our top footballers are affected by dental decay, tooth erosion and gum disease, much of which is preventable.

“But while these findings are worrying we are pleased that clubs such as West Ham are already embracing the findings and building on their existing interventions by placing oral health care at the forefront of their medical agenda.

“We hope that other teams follow their lead and introduce robust oral health screening and promotion as a routine element of their programs.”



Stijn Vandenbroucke, Head of Medicine and Sports Science, West Ham United FC, said: “Teeth problems never come at a good time, so we at WHUFC prefer to screen and plan preventive interventions with the dentist in the off  and pre-season.

“Oral health is an area where many athletes have greater problems than the general population so it has been a massive achievement for so many professional football clubs to collaborate with each other to help us understand the scale of this problem better."

“Being part of this study has also helped us as a club to implement tailored interventions to treat and prevent further problems.

“There aren't many areas of screening in sport, which meet all screening criteria and can be so useful with such clear preventive benefits for athletes and club. Hopefully those who read the study will see the advantages as well."

Winston Reid, West Ham United FC centre back and New Zealand captain, said: "In the beginning of the season WHU organised a long screening day.

“The medical team had a look at our heart, blood, eyes and teeth. The dentist screened my teeth and explained to me in detail the dental problems that needed to be tackled to prevent painful teeth resulting in missing training.

“The club doctor organised a few dentist appointments and now a few months later I am smiling without worries, really top job from our medical boys."


Read the full paper>>

*Dentists checked the tooth and gum health of more than 90% of each senior squad at Hull FC, Manchester United FC, Southampton FC, Swansea City AFC, West Ham FC, Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff FC and Sheffield United FC.  The average age of the players was 24. Each footballer was asked about the impact of dental health on their lives. Despite attendance for dental check-ups, oral health deteriorated with age