Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Athletes face dental danger
Athletes may risk losing their teeth because they eat healthy diets packed with carbohydrates, fruit and energy drinks, dentists have warned.
They say such substances can erode and decay teeth -decay rots teeth until they break up, erosion wears them down slowly until the patient is left with ugly stumps.
Dental erosion can also be caused by eating disorders - to which athletes are more prone than the general population - when stomach acids are brought up during enforced vomiting.
Dietitians, sports specialists and dentists held a seminar on Friday to discuss sports nutrition and dental problems - an area dentists say is under-researched.
"Tooth erosion is a new problem that has only emerged in the last few years," said Dr Alex Milosevic, a consultant in restorative dentistry at Liverpool University Dental Hospital.
"Erosion seems to particularly effect the young, and athletes, because of their diet, are also susceptible.
"Dentists need to be educated about how to deal with sportsmen and women and their special dietary requirements, while sportspeople need to be aware of dental erosion and decay."
But specialists speaking at the seminar said that simply telling athletes to avoid certain foods would not work, because they needed them to maintain high energy levels.
Instead, they should offer advice on how to consume more carefully.
For example, drinks should be chilled and drunk quickly through a straw to minimise erosion.
"Dentists can play a significant role in helping athletes prepare for sporting events," said Dr Bill Allen, chairman of the British Dental Association.
"Anyone taking part in sports should have a check up at least six months before an event, because a dental problem can seriously undermine sporting performance.
"Athletes are often perfectionists, and with the right encouragement they are likely to attend to their oral health as much as their general health."