WHO TAKES CARE OF THE OLYMPIAN'S TEETH WHILE THEY'RE AT THE OLYMPICS?
For the past week and a half, the Olympics have been a permanent fixture on our television. So much so, our 18 month-old daughter has gotten to the point of handing us the remote control and begging us to change the channel. Thinking about the logistics of putting on such an enormous event, I got to wondering: Is there a dentist on site to take care of the athlete's teeth? Surely some of the athletes in certain sports would need some kind of emergency dental care (judo, anyone?). While I highly doubt any of the athletes would be getting their regular cleaning at the Olympics, I was curious to know what kind of dental treatment is going on at the London 2012 Olympics.
Turns out, there IS a dental care program at the Olympics. British dentist Dr. Tony Clough, BDS talked to DrBicuspid.com (DR.BC) about the facilities available at the dental clinic, the particular challenges of providing care at such an event, and the importance of oral health for athletes.
DR.BC: What role will you be playing at this year's Olympics?
Dr. Clough: In London, I set up the whole dental program over the last four years, sourced all equipment and materials, selected staff, set up treatment protocols, put together the pharmacy list and worked with Crest and Oral-B to design the decor of the clinic.
This year, I represented the IOC as an advisor with specific responsibility for contact sports, where there is a high incidence of orofacial injury. We have dentists at basketball, boxing, tae kwan do, water polo, judo, handball, and field hockey events. I will also help coordinate with Crest and Oral-B on the surveys taking place in the clinic.
DR.BC: What dental facilities will be available to the athletes at the Olympic Games and who will be eligible to receive this care?
Dr. Clough: The dental clinic is located on the fourth floor of the large polyclinic within the Olympic Village. We have eight operatories, a dental lab, an X-ray room, an office, a decontamination suite, and a reception facility. Any athlete can attend the clinic, as can backup staff, trainers, managers and all IOC family and friends.
We will attend to all urgent care, including toothaches, fractured teeth, and infections. We will also provide non-urgent care for those individuals who cannot easily access dentistry at home due to lack of time, money, or availability. There is also an extensive mouthguard program and a dental screening program to investigate and quantify the oral health of athletes.
DR.BC: How many patients do you expect to see during the Olympics, and what conditions/emergencies do you most likely expect to treat?
Dr. Clough: We expect 800 urgent care cases, 1,000 routine follow-up cases, and several hundred screening patients. Many athletes arrive with wisdom teeth infections due to fatigue, flying, and stress. It is anticipated that we'll perform 150-200 root canal therapies.
DR.BC: What are some common causes of dental problems in athletes?
Dr. Clough: The most common problem are wisdom tooth infections, general perio issues and cavities.
DR.BC: What are some particular challenges associated with providing dental care to athletes during an event like the Olympics?
Dr. Clough: The special challenges are having to plan treatment around an athlete's competition program/schedule. We cannot extract a tooth just before a competition, so maybe we will have to extirpate and extract it later. What anti-inflammatories and antibiotics should be given, and what pain killers to avoid drowsiness. Also, what treatments should we start if the athlete is about to go home where there is little dental care. Perhaps we may extract teeth rather than start a root canal therapy that could later become infected. It is a fine balancing act that needs to be carefully thought out.
DR.BC: Has anything surprised you about the oral health of these world-class athletes?
Dr. Clough: The amount of cavities in developed countries and the lack of dental care some athletes have had in their countries are surprising. Money, time, and lack of available care seem to be the root of the problem.
DR.BC: How important is oral health for an athlete?
Dr. Clough: An athlete cannot perform to his or her best with poor oral health. Wisdom teeth infections and toothaches cause systemic problems, which affect performance and cause an inability to concentrate, train, or sleep. Generalized chronic periodontitis causes a low-grade pyrexia that will affect performance. Oral health is just as important as the health of any other part of the body, and it is our responsibility to educate athletes, coaches, and most of all, team physicians about the importance of good oral health.