Eastman Dental Institute


Engaging young athletes from Arsenal Football Club

27 February 2017

Engaging young athletes from Arsenal Football Club

It is now widely recognised that young athletes suffer from dental health related issues due to the consumption of sports drinks and energy drinks to fuel their training performance.

UCL’s Centre for Oral Health and Performance has been conducting significant amount of research activity related to oral health in sport.

Previously published research, from the Eastman Dental Institute by Ashely et al 2015, which was a comprehensive systematic review ‘Oral health of elite athletes and association with performance: a systematic review’ showed, that poor oral health in elite and professional sport, particularly dental caries and dental erosion was consistent across the studies.

Dental Erosion is the acid wear of teeth through chemical means that does not involve bacteria/decay. According to the Adult Dental Health Survey, UK of 2009, “there is an increasing proportion of young adults with moderate tooth wear.” Globally this is being identified as an emerging issue. These damaged teeth need long-term maintenance and repair during their life course. This is because as soon as a tooth is restored it then enters a cycle of repair and maintenance. We know that dental erosion is prevalent amongst young adults due to consumption of large amounts of acidic energy drinks. As early erosion is asymptomatic it remains undetected until it has removed significant amounts of tooth structure and extensive damage has occurred.

Early erosion is reversible to some degree biologically. Moderate to severe erosion is challenging to restore and also weakens teeth, so their long term prognosis is reduced.

As part of UCL’s commitment to public engagement in research, the Institute wanted to engage with group of young adults and athletes to educate them about early erosion, before it becomes severe and symptomatic and also to prevent this occurring.

The workshop was designed and conducted under the guidance of Dr Ailbhe McDonald, Academic Head of Department of Prosthodontics. Other members of staff involved in this workshop were Clinical Teaching Fellows, Ms Unnati Narvekar and Ms Antigoni Stylianou.

Arsenal Football Club collaborated with the Prosthodontics Department in setting up a workshop with the young athletes in their BTEC sports programme. The workshop was interactive in nature and involved the participants in the age group of 12-19 years.

The participants were asked to bring the drinks they usually take to their training sessions. These drinks were tested for their pH levels using litmus strips, which was a great way to understand the impact of the benign looking drinks on teeth.

Participants also had a small quiz to broaden their understanding of the acidic/alkaline nature of commonly used drinks and their subsequent effect on teeth.
They were also offered the opportunity to understand early signs of erosion on their anterior teeth with the help of a small camera; their teeth were photographed and displayed on a large screen.  This enhanced their knowledge and demonstrated how to watch out for early warning signs.

An educational video on dental erosion was also launched on YouTube, for this event, and participants were shown encouraged to share this educational video with their peers.

Dr McDonald gave a presentation to the group regarding dental erosion, nature and progression of continually wear of teeth and the treatment required for the same. Research activity in the Department of Prosthodontics related to erosive wear of teeth was also discussed with the group.

The Department of Prosthodontics hopes that events like these will help us access young individuals who may not have information related to dental erosion and oral health easily available to them.

Feedback collected at the end of the workshop will influence similar public engagement activities with other young athletes from various sports backgrounds in the future.