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Increasing emphasis has been placed on rider fitness and well-being over the past decade — but are professionals taking enough care of their teeth?

According to a new study, a combination of sports drinks, high carbohydrate diets and a greater likelihood of eating disorders puts athletes at risk of teeth problems.

Eighteen researchers from Britain and North America have issued a “call to action” to tackle the issue in October’s British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Riders were singled out in the document — along with boxers, gymnasts and long-distance runners — as athletes among whom eating disorders were likely to be prevalent.

Some former jockeys have admitted they have resorted to vomiting in order to drop weight in a short period of time.

Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) designed a scientific diet plan last year (news, 30 January 2014) to stop the “dangerous techniques” employed by many jockeys to make weight earlier this year.

This recent review, which comprised information from 39 studies, has revealed that poor dental health is widespread in elite athletes across the world. Tooth decay, gum disease, enamel erosion, infected wisdom teeth or impacted molars were the most commonly reported problems.

Dr Anna-Louise Mackinnon, who is a medical adviser for the Professional Jockey’s Association and the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), told H&H that dental issues are the most common rider injury after soft tissue traumas, fractures, concussions and dislocations.

“The IJF provides support to jockeys who are in financial need and require dental work as a result of a riding injury,” said Dr Mackinnon.

A spokesman from the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class programme told H&H that the organisation had not come across any specific incidents of poor dental health.

“We don’t have a strict monitoring process, but our athletes do regularly see our dietician and doctors, so their general health is well monitored,” the spokesman added.

As a result of the study, the researchers have called for the integration of dental care into all athletes’ programmes.

“Regular assessments of oral health by a dental professional will allow for personalisation of prevention plans and early treatment of any disease,” the study concluded.