Sports dentistry: That one percent for a better performance
Dr. Michael Passinger Published: 23rd February 2020
Have you ever been in the situation during an athletic competition , were you are overtaken close to the finish line, maybe just missed a slot for Kona or failed to reach your personal or team goal? That is the moment were the search for that one percent begins. At first you think about optimizing your equipment or changing your strategy. You completely neglect the potential that may still be in your body, but this is exactly where sports dentistry with its holistic approach might help you. Many professionals have already discovered the advantages of this relatively new area of sports medicine. Among amateur athletes it is still considered an insider tip.
Researchers confirm that the human body is a much more complex, interconnected system than originally assumed. Parts of the body connected by fascia form descending and ascending chains: jaw - neck - shoulder - spine - pelvis - knee - heels. Taking a closer look, it is therefore not surprising that dental measures can have a positive or negative influence on bodily functions in many ways.
The areas in which sports dentistry can be helpful are manifold. For athletes, prevention, i.e. avoiding factors that reduce performance, as well as increasing performance through dental measures, is of particular interest.
In some cases, the body cannot use its full potential due to undiscovered inflammations or malposition in the oral system. Many factors lead to an inflammatory strain on the body. These can be inflammation of the gums, caries, wisdom teeth, root canaled teeth, inflammation of the jawbone and many more. The body is weakened, the immune system is constantly working. As a result ,you have a poor regeneration, recurring muscular issues and a reduction in performance.
Particularly among athletes, the long-lasting contact of the teeth with isotonic drinks (pH-value of 2-3), in addition to caries, can promote porosities of the enamel tooth substance. The already affected teeth are literally sanded down due to constant clenching and grinding. The sensitivity to pain increases. Also, a malposition between the lower and the upper jaw can result in a search for the right bite.
When grinding teeth, extremely high forces can occur, at times up to one ton per square centimeter. The entire body musculature is tensed and so one unintentionally performs a work out session at night instead of being able to regenerate. However, this can be prevented with an appropriate splint therapy.
Those who want to improve their physical performance should therefore start with prophylaxis. Once all performance-reducing factors have been eliminated, one should also check the position of the jaws and teeth. From a neurological point of view, a "false bite" creates a significant stress state of the body and can sometimes be responsible for malposition in other areas. The body tries to compensate for the jaw malposition, which can lead to tension in the neck muscles and blockages in the cervical spine and shoulder area. When the tension is very high, it can continue into malposition of the spine, the pelvis and the legs and thus, unexpectedly, lead to inflammation of the Achilles tendon or prevent its healing.
A sports dentist does not try to eliminate the consequences of the malocclusion, he starts with the cause of the problems: the jaw position. After precise measurement, a dentist can, for example, use a performance splint to bring the jaws back into the correct position.
By correcting the bite, the tension is released, the musculature is relieved and the erroneous statics of the spine or pelvic obliquity are improved. The susceptibility to injury is thus significantly reduced. At the same time, the breathing capacity is often increased.
Can every dentist help?
Usually you see a dentist when you suffer from toothache. However, if the dentist is not specialized, you might get a dental treatment that looks good but does not improve or even worsens the function, because the jaw gets fixed in the wrong position (without measurement and correction).
When should one visit a sports dentist?
When - there are long periods without noticeable improvement. - the susceptibility to orthopedic problems accumulates. - dental problems occur (of course).
As a competitive athlete, however, you need a dentist who works function-oriented, has the appropriate education and follows a holistic approach. It is also advantageous if they have a connection to the sport and understand the problem from their own experience.
Many problems actually come "from the top" and dental health is much more important for the ambitious athlete than one might have thought.
Sometimes very little is missing to be successful.
The Autor - Dr. Michael Passinger
As a triathlete, the sports team dentist Dr. Michael Passinger is primarily competing in long and half distance races. With three participations in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and numerous successes in Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races, he is probably one of the fastest practicing dentists.
In his practice in Langen (Germany), he has already treated several well-known professional triathletes and even looked after some of these athletes in their direct preparation for the Ironman Hawaii. Furthermore, as a member of the German Society for Sports Dentistry, Michael Passinger is in regular contact with other sports dentists.