Author Dr Thanos Stamos (DDS, Greece) is the co-founder & executive vice-president of the European Association for Sports Dentistry (EA4SD) in Paris, France and the co-author of World Dental Federation (FDI) Sports Dentistry Guidelines & Toolkits. Dr Stamos is a Keynote Speaker at the DentalReach Conference & Awards (DRDCA) 22: Sports Dentistry Edition. Brochure & Registration Link: Click here
Sports & Dentistry – A ‘Fit’ Relationship
Sports was always a part of the human activity and culture, and they have become a key element to maintain and improve our health. Sports is health. But is this without any conditions? The answer is no! Sports can be health, fun, excitement, achievement, emotion, performance, sacrifice, but on one condition – that it is practiced in a safe mode for our health.
We cannot expect an athlete with a knee injury or heart disorder to practice sports because in such cases, it means putting his/her health at risk. In the same way, how can we expect an athlete to exercise or compete while having a periodontal abscess, extensive caries, injured teeth, or jaws?
Today, FIFA estimates over 300,000 professional players and 300,000,000 amateur players around the world. And this is only in football! In the UK Premier League alone, the financial cost of injuries was estimated to 269,000,000 pounds in season 2014-15, in professional football alone! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the USA, 218,000,000 people engage in daily physical exercise, that is 66% of the US population. In USA alone, dental injuries from recreational sports account for more than 600,000 emergency dental visits each year.
In the early 90’s, a new medical field developed rapidly, called “Sports Medicine”. Now, a detailed medical examination of athletes is conducted, prevention takes an important lead, specialized protocols of field emergencies are created and most important, sports medicine has become multidisciplinary. Physicians and health professionals from different specialties form the medical team and are responsible for the sports team to work systematically on the prevention and treatment of the sport-related injuries. The research about the exercising human body is booming, the scientific evidence linking the physical exercise to pathologies, injuries and performance in a two-way pattern has opened new horizons to the medical science and the athletes have started to benefit from a healthier sport. The results started to show: from the 2002 to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the incidence of injuries decreased by 37%. Medicine meets sports and sports becomes a science!
When I started to treat professional football players and other athletes in my dental clinic, I soon realized that the existing examination and treatment protocols were not enough to provide the best possible dental care to athletes who were traveling at least twice a month, exercising hard every day, and competing at their maximum twice a week. The athlete had no time and motivation for dental treatments, the coach wanted the athlete present at every single hour of training, the team physician wanted the minimum Return To Play. Not to mention the restrictions regarding medication prescriptions. At the same time, there was a complete lack of awareness in sports about the oral health importance over the overall health and physical activity. Hard times for a sports dentist! What would a football player with a ball possession do while being attacked? He would look for teammates. Luckily, there were a lot of dentists in the similar situation, so more teammates on the field!
The Journey of EA4SD, France
It didn’t take long to agree with my colleagues from different countries to create the European Association for Sports Dentistry (EA4SD) in Paris, France. Motivated by our common vision to adapt our science in the athlete’s needs, conduct research, create a network, and present scientific evidence on how the oral health has an impact on sports, the EA4SD was created in Europe and soon its members started to multiply rapidly in Europe and the rest of the world. As cofounders of the EA4SD, we agreed on the principle of creating an association where its members will have the opportunity to actively participate with their ideas, research, and projects to our common goals: Sports Dentistry international development and integration in sports medicine.
- In 2017, the EA4SD became an official partner of the European College of Sports and Exercise Physicians (ECOSEP) which is the first international sports physicians’ association to create a Sports Dentistry Committee.
- In 2018, the World Dental Federation (FDI) created the first ever official guidelines and toolkit of sports dentistry addressed to more than one million dentists and 200 national dental associations in over 130 countries.
Sports dentistry is now officially recognized by the FDI.
- In 2019, the EA4SD became an official partner of the Academy for Sports Dentistry in the USA (ASD), thus creating a global network of sports dentistry and starting a strategic cooperation in terms of development and network.
- In 2020, the first ever Consensus Statement about sports dentistry integration in sports medicine, was published in Journal of Dental Traumatology, by the EA4SD, ECOSEP and ASD.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” – Michael Jordan.
Sports Dentistry: Current picture
Oral health and dental treatments have an immediate and visible impact on the body, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal system, plantar arch, muscle strength, posture, and gait. Caries and periodontal disease are found in highly elevated incidence in athletes. In professional American football alone, 100,000 to 200,000 oral injuries per year are prevented using mouthguards. We can now screen and treat our athletes using combined technologies, such as CBCT scan, facial electromyography, digital occlusal record and impressions, mouthguards and splints materials and devices of cutting-edge technology providing optimal injury prevention.
Today, thousands of dentists in Europe and around the world are interested in and benefit from this new field in dentistry. The research and scientific evidence about oral health in sports is increasing rapidly, sports dentistry has become continuing education, specialization, post-graduate diploma in dental faculties, present in major sports medicine and dentistry international conferences.
Sports dentistry started as an innovation…
continued as a sustainable integration in sports medicine…
and now it becomes a global emerging trend in dental and medical field!