Are oral health and fixed orthodontic appliances associated with sports injuries and postural stability in elite junior male soccer players?

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Solleveld H¹, Flutter J², Goedhart A¹, Vanden Bossche L³.

Dental caries and periodontitis are associated with elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines which may trigger muscle fatigue during exercise, a strong risk factor for sports injuries. Fixed orthodontic appliances (FOA) may cause poor oral health and may disturb proprioceptive inputs of the stomatognathic system. This study aims to explore associations of poor oral health and of use of a FOA with injury frequency and postural stability.

One hundred eighty seven Belgian elite junior male soccer players, aged 12-17 years, completed a self-report questionnaire asking about injuries in the past year, oral health problems, use of a FOA, demographics and sports data, and stood in unipedal stance with eyes closed on a force plate to assess postural stability.

Ordinal logistic regression with number of injuries in the past year as ordinal dependent variable and dental caries and/or gum problems, age and player position as covariates, showed that participants who reported dental caries and/or gum problems and never had had a FOA reported significant more injuries in the past year compared to the reference group of participants who reported no oral health problems and never had had a FOA (adjusted OR = 2.45; 95% CI, 1.19-5.05; p = 0.015). A 2 (temporomandibular joint problems) × 2 (FOA) × 2 (age) ANOVA with postural stabilities as dependent variables, showed a significant FOA x age interaction for the non-dominant (standing) leg. Post-hoc t-tests showed a significant better postural stability for the non-dominant leg (and a trend for the dominant leg) for the older compared with the younger participants in the non-FOA group (p = .002, ES = 0.61), while no age differences were found in the FOA-group.

These results indicate that poor oral health may be an injury risk factor and that a FOA may hinder the development of body postural stability.

Dental caries; Oral health; Orthodontic appliances; Postural stability; Soccer; Sports injury