Back of the net

With Cardiff City FC having finally reached the ‘Promised Land’ of the Premier League, for the forthcoming season they will now compete week in week out with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, etc. There’s no doubt that the excitement within the Welsh capital is rapidly growing in anticipation of the new season.

Pre-season and in-season preparation work, from a dental perspective, is well underway with Cardiff City FC.

My involvement in the pre-season period is to provide dental screenings of all senior and junior players. This allows me to build a portfolio on each player’s dental health to report to the sports medicine department. From a dental-screening point of view, I am recording oral hygiene and dietary habits, caries rates, 3rd molar status and any outstanding treatment need and ongoing pathology. Any complex or invasive treatments, such as extractions or root canal treatment, that potentially could hamper concentration performance or interfere with nutrition and training, are planned for and dealt with in pre-season as much as possible. In some cases, this dental screening may bring certain issues to light that the clubs sports medicine department may have been totally unaware of. Or it can reveal something the player may be hiding, such as chewing tobacco, multiple untreated carious lesions or multiple purulent discharging dental abscesses. This is why I now feel that dental input has a huge role to play within modern-day sports medicine.

Ultimate goal
With this role, there is an increased pressure to deliver high quality dentistry instantly, whether it is at 9am, 8pm or on a Sunday to ensure all players can ‘give their all’ on the pitch.  The important point, from my perspective, is that I do not want to send players into a season with potential dental issues waiting to happen.
My ultimate goal, as a dentist to the club, is to make sure dental issues do not happen, such as dental abscesses or dental pain in season. This is not always possible 100% of the time as sometimes a tooth that’s going to develop a dental abscess, there can be initially no signs.

Year on year, the dental condition has improved. I think the fact that Cardiff City’s sports medicine department, headed by Richard Collinge, has made dentistry a big part of the club’s whole sports medical programme, is important in that players are going to be screened and monitored dentally.

Sweet success?
Footballers have very different calorific demands to the average patient; this is especially true in the younger athlete.
• Their calorific intake is often double that of an average person
• Unfortunately, a high percentage of this is in the form of carbohydrate (sugar) intake
• These sugars can be found in a variety of sports drinks and through frequent overuse may cause such dental issues as caries and toothwear through acid erosion
• It is vital to establish an early caries prevention (decay) programme through the use of good dietary and oral hygiene habits and the regular use of high fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes in these athletes as they are at a much higher risk
• A player missing a game due to a preventable dental problem could potentially cost the club millions of pounds.

In season, I attend to any dental issues that crop up, such as fractured restorations or dental trauma sustained on a match day. During the season, I also provide the club sports medicine department with an in-house CPD programme on any relevant dental topics within sport (previous presentations have included match day management and recognition of dental trauma with protocol introduction, the issues of TMJ in sport and a report on the data of the pre-season dental screen).  

In an attempt to prevent and educate against potential future dental issues, I advise the academy players on the importance of dental health within sport and the problems that can arise if neglected. This neglect can give rise to these younger professionals having to undergo a multitude of complex restorative dental work. There is even the possibility of them encountering multiple missing teeth due to gross dental caries and poor oral hygiene by their mid to late twenties!

Good cross
For the forthcoming Premier League season, I will be in attendance at all of Cardiff city’s home games to support the home and away medical staff from a dental perspective. I am also attempting to establish a network of team dentists – involved amongst the Premier League football clubs initially – and subsequently the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2. This dental network will allow good cross communication between clubs and all sports medicine professionals involved. It would serve to address any pre- and match-day dental issues for both the home and away teams to be dealt with in the case of a dental emergency. It is imperative these dental issues and sports dentistry in general receives a heightened awareness within modern-day sports medicine. An exciting first season in the top flight of English football awaits Cardiff!

Dr Lyndon Meehan is a general dental practitioner in South Wales. He splits his working week between Morriston hospital Swansea, as a staff grade restorative dentist and private and NHS dental practices. He has a passion for sports dentistry, dental trauma/endodontics and pre-competition dental screening for sportspersons. He obtained his degree in Dental Technology in 2000 from UWIC and BDS in 2005 from University of Wales College of Medicine. In 2007, he gained a certificate in sports dentistry from the renowned Eastman Dental Institute London and in 2009 obtained MJDF qualification from the Royal College of Surgeons London. He is currently undertaking a three-year Master’s programme in endodontics at the University of Glamorgan.
Dr Meehan has clinically supported many sports organisations and teams over the last seven years. These include tournament dentist for the U20 Junior Rugby World Cup and introduction in 2009 of the role of sports dentist to the UK School Sports Games on an annual basis. His current dental affiliations within rugby are to Pontypridd RFC, and works alongside current dentist to the Welsh rugby Union, Dr Chris Lewis, assisting with the senior squad for their Six Nations and November International campaigns. In preparation for the 2011 rugby union world cup, in conjunction with the Under Armour sportswear group, he oversaw fabrication of mouthguards for the entire Welsh Rugby senior squad. He currently provides advice on dental trauma to the England and Wales cricket board and national county cricket sides. For several weeks in 2012, he played a major role providing dental treatment and advice in the athlete’s village polyclinic during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A member of the International Academy of Sports Dentistry, in 2011 he attended their annual conference in the USA to undertake the team dentist sports course’ qualification. He is committed to research, education and development and has lectured nationally on sports dentistry. This season he has recently undertaken a role as dentist to the football association of Wales and covers the national team around match days. Currently, a dental adviser to Premier League, Southampton FC, having this season established a preseason dental screening programme and care pathway for the club sports medicine staff. He is now also entering into his fifth season as club dentist to Cardiff City FC.
For more information about sports dentistry, email [email protected]


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