Oral health of professional footballers is poor

football tackle

Recent studies have found evidence that oral health in professional athletes is poor and impacts on well-being, training and performance.

The aim of this study was to evaluate the oral health of a representative sample of professional footballers and to investigate possible determinants or oral health in this group as well as the self-reported impacts on well-being, quality of life and performance.


Senior team squad members aged at least 18 from 8 UK professional football clubs (Premier League: Hull FC, Manchester United FC, Southampton FC, Swansea City AFC, West Ham FC, Championship: Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff FC and League One: Sheffield United FC) underwent a clinical oral health examination, which was carried out by the normal team dentist or named dentist nominated by the club in the clubs’ training or medical facilities.

Dental Caries, Periodontal health, Tooth wear and dental and orofacial trauma was recorded. Demographics, health behaviours, oral symptoms and impact on well-being, training and performance was obtained using a questionnaire modified from a validated health-related quality of life measure.


  • 189 footballers were recruited with 187 being examined.
  • Median age was 24 years (range 18–39 years), and the majority were white (75.1%).
  • 73.4% reported attending for a check-up within the past 12 months.
  • 37% players had active dental caries. There were no statistically significant associations between last visit to dentist for dentine caries or for frequency of sports drink use and dentine caries.
  • 21.7% reported a history of orofacial trauma due to sport.
  • Dental erosion was present in 53.1% of footballers but there was no statistically significant association between sports drinks frequency and dental erosion.
  • Consumption of sports drink at least three times per week was reported by 63.7% players.
  • Ten players (5.4%) reported current tobacco use, mostly smokeless/chewing tobacco.
  • 76.6% were affected by gingivitis and 5% by moderate-severe irreversible periodontal disease.
  • More than 45% of footballers were bothered by their oral health with 19.6% reporting an impact on their quality of life and 6.9% reporting an impact on training or performance.


The authors concluded:

Oral health of professional footballers is poor, and this impacts on well-being and performance. Successful strategies to promote oral health within professional football are urgently needed, and research should investigate models based on best evidence for behaviour change and implementation science. Furthermore, this study provides strong evidence to support oral health screening within professional football.


This cross-sectional study of the oral health of professional footballers suggests that their oral health is poorer than a comparable group from the Adult Dental Health Survey for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (2009).

However, as the authors note, this should be interpreted with caution as the examiners were not trained and calibrated and the methodology although similar, was not the same.  This study builds on previous work by this group looking at the oral health of elite athletes that emphasises that while oral health is as important to this population group as any other group, it may also influence their performance.


Primary paper

Needleman I, Ashley P, Meehan L, Petrie A, Weiler R, McNally S, Ayer C, Hanna R, Hunt I, Kell S, Ridgewell P, Taylor R. Poor oral health including active caries in 187 UK professional male football players: clinical dental examination performed by dentists. Br J Sports Med Published Online First: [2nd Nov 2015] doi:10.1136/ bjsports-2015- 094953

Other references

Ashley P, Di Iorio A, Cole E, Tanday A, Needleman I. Oral health of elite athletes and association with performance: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jan;49(1):14-9.

Needleman I, Ashley P, Fine P, Haddad F, Loosemore M, de Medici A, Donos N, Newton T, van Someren K, Moazzez R, Jaques R, Hunter G, Khan K, Shimmin M, Brewer J, Meehan L, Mills S, Porter S. Oral health and elite sport performance. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jan;49(1):3-6

Needleman I, Ashley P, Petrie A, Fortune F, Turner W, Jones J, Niggli J, Engebretsen L, Budgett R, Donos N, Clough T, Porter S. Oral health and impact on performance of athletes participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games: a cross-sectional study. Br J Sports Med. 2013 Nov;47(16):1054-8.

Dental Elf 14th Oct -2014 Oral health problems in elite athletes.

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