When we talk about athletic performance, the conversation often revolves around strength training, agility and mental resilience however, one aspect that often remains overlooked is dental care. Dentists attest to the significant role dental care plays in maximising athletic performance.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajesh Shetty, Clinical Director of Dazzle Dental Clinic in Mumbai, revealed several facets of dental care that can make a pivotal difference in how an athlete performs –
- Airway Analysis for Improved Oxygen Intake
Oxygen is the fuel that powers every muscle during physical activity, making efficient breathing crucial for athletes. A dentist can conduct a comprehensive airway analysis using advanced diagnostic tools such as cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans and rhinomanometry. These tests can reveal blockages or narrow passages in the nasal cavity, throat, or oral airways that might hinder optimal breathing.
Based on the results, treatment options can include surgical interventions to remove physical obstructions like enlarged tonsils, non-surgical procedures like palate expansion, or even targeted exercises to strengthen the tongue and throat muscles. In some cases, appliances can be designed to assist in keeping the airway open during sleep, improving sleep quality and thus performance. Enhanced oxygen intake is not just about immediate gains in endurance and stamina; it also contributes to faster recovery and reduced fatigue over time.
2. Bite Correction for Enhanced Biomechanics
Many athletes are unaware that a misaligned bite can significantly impair their performance. Misalignment often causes an uneven distribution of force when the jaws are clenched, leading to muscle imbalances that can cascade down the neck, spine, and even into the limbs.
Treatment options range from full orthodontic intervention with braces to minor bite adjustments using dental reshaping techniques or crowns. Correcting bite issues can have far-reaching impacts, such as improving posture and alignment, which are essential for any physical activity. Athletes with corrected bites often report a notable improvement in their balance and coordination, which is critical in nearly all sports.
Following bite correction, targeted physiotherapy or athletic training may be recommended to retrain muscles that have adapted to the previous misalignment. This ensures that athletes can fully capitalize on their new, more efficient biomechanics.
3. Improving Sleep by Treating Sleep Apnoea
An expert dentist can play a critical role in diagnosing sleep apnoea through a detailed examination of the oral cavity and airway. Monitoring devices may be used to study sleep patterns and breathing behaviors. Moreover, CBCT scans can provide a comprehensive view of the airway, helping to identify structural issues that might contribute to sleep apnea.
Dental appliances like mandibular advancement devices (MADs) can be custom-designed to treat mild to moderate sleep apnoea. These appliances work by holding the lower jaw forward and down slightly, which opens up the airway. For athletes, this could mean the difference between a night of disrupted sleep and a restorative eight hours, leading to significantly better performance on the field or in the gym.
4. Custom Mouthguards for Stability and Breathing
Mouthguards are often considered a simple protective device, but their impact on athletic performance can be significant when customized by a dental expert. Standard mouthguards often poorly fit the athlete’s dental anatomy, which can obstruct airways or improperly align the jaw.
A customised mouthguard, on the other hand, can be designed to position the jaw in an optimal alignment. This not only allows for unobstructed airflow but also creates a stable bite, helping to align the head and neck properly. Proper alignment can lead to more efficient force transfer through the body, thereby potentially enhancing biomechanical efficiency during physical activities like lifting, running or jumping.