Preventive Dental Care Helps Olympic Athletes Focus on Their Sport
Despite a disappointing loss to Germany earlier today that spelled a too-early exit for the US Women’s Field Hockey team, they’re not leaving Rio empty handed. No, thanks to the work of one charitable dentist in Lancaster, New Jersey, these members of Team USA might just have the cleanest teeth of them all.
Women’s Field Hockey players focus on their game in Rio, not their teeth.
The original text was originally published by Lancaster Online on August 1, 2016.
That’s all thanks to an Elizabethtown dentist who’s given members of the Lancaster-based team free dental care.
Dr. Rick Knowlton is there when injuries happen. More often, he has offered cleanings and dental work for a group of athletes who train full time and travel so often that they may let dental appointments slip.
His work with Olympic athletes grew from his time as past president of the Academy of Sports Dentistry, a group of dentists working with athletes. That group noticed athletes at the highest level were at their peak athletically and physically, yet they overlooked dental care.
That’s partially because rigorous training leaves little time for dental appointments. The U.S. Olympic Committee offers medical insurance, but not dental insurance. And many athletes don’t have time to hold a job offering dental benefits and can’t afford to pay for dental care.
“Dental work can be hugely expensive and, honestly, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford half of the stuff he’s given me,” Van Sickle said.
When dental problems do arise, they can be serious, from cavities to gum disease. Those problems are painful and can affect performance by causing issues with concentration, training, or sleep, said Dr. Tony Clough, director of the Olympic dental clinic at the London Summer Olympics.
So the sports dentistry group partnered with the academy to connect Olympic athletes around the country with dentists willing to donate dental care.
About a third of the academy’s member dentists have signed up, and more than 300 athletes were treated through the program last year.