Posted on June 03, 2018

Many professional athletes take for granted how important it is to maintain good oral health, especially when fasting during the month of Ramadan, thus exposing their teeth to myriad problems that may have a negative impact on their athletic performance.

Many of them may not realise the serious complications that can arise from failing to check their teeth, Gum and teeth infections can lead to surgery, followed by lengthy rehabilitation periods, which could drastically affect the performance of professional athletes for an extended period of time. Conscious about the importance of this issue, Aspetar, Qatar’s orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital, encourages professional athletes to use the ‘Miswak’ during the month of Ramadan The Miswak is a natural alternative to the modern toothbrush; however, both a toothbrush and toothpaste must also be used.

Speaking about the topic, Aspetar’s expert, Dr. Mohammad Al-Saey, Consultant in Oral Surgery and Director of Sports Dentistry, has addressed a few key questions on the Miswak while providing tips to athletes to help them in the prevention of dental and oral health complications.

The medical benefits of the ‘Miswak’. Can it be used as an alternative to the toothbrush?

The Miswak is classified as one of the most effective tools people can use to maintain their oral health during Ramadan, particularly for those who are fasting. It is similar to a naturally occurring toothpaste that leaves the teeth clean while avoiding complications such as: Halitosis; both during Ramadan as well as part of our daily routine.

According to Dr. Mohammad Al-Saey, recent research confirms that the Miswak contains a disinfectant called "tannins", which is organic that strengthens the gums and helps prevent bleeding. Research also shows that the Miswak contains a medical substance called ‘Sinigrin’, with its strong odour and taste that helps kill germs. Fluoride, which hardens the teeth and increases resistance against tooth decay. Miswak also contains Silicon Dioxide which aids in the removal of the plaque on teeth.

Aspetar on oral health for 2 [].jpgThe ‘Miswak’ is beneficial as easy to control, and its soft bristles can reach between the teeth and remove food debris without harming the gums. It can also be carried easily, and has a distinct taste that stimulates the secretion of saliva which helps maintain the level of bacteria in the oral cavity. Whilst there have been confirmed benefits to the Miswak, Dr. Al-Saey recommends that it is used alongside the toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, because using the Miswak alone isn’t enough to: remove food debris and plaque between teeth.

He also advises that people wash their Miswaks with water to sterilise it from the bacteria before use, and warns against the harms of using it when dry, because it can damage the gums. The doctor also stresses the importance of minimising one’s sugar intake during Ramadan, emphasising that people must consume it in moderation, and brush their teeth after Iftar and Suhoor as it helps stimulate the salivary glands.

Tips for sports enthusiasts to avoid oral injuries

Dr. Al-Saey has also pointed out that, based on the number of visitors to Aspetar’s Sports Dentistry department, traumatic cases increase during Ramadan, particularly during the hours between Iftar and Suhoor. Some of the common injuries occurs among contact sports such as football, handball, basketball and taekwondo among others. Contact sports can increase the likelihood of injuries to the teeth and/or jaw, so players are advised to wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth.

He said: “Aspetar is the only centre in the Middle East to provide custom made mouth guards for athletes. Aspetar places high importance in providing these mouth guards because of the important role they can play in preventing oral injuries, particularly in contact sports, as it acts like a cushion between the upper and lower jaws to prevent collision. It can protect the athlete from a number of serious oral injuries, including teeth factures, jaw factures, soft tissue and lip injuries.”

Oral health effects on athletic performance

Dr. Al-Saey affirmed that it is important for athletes to go for regular check-ups at Aspetar, where doctors can examine the oral cavity, including hard and soft structures using the latest medical equipment and x-rays, and provide them with the best prevention plan.

He added that some athletes believe that diseases of teeth and gums do not affect their sports performance, but recent studies prove otherwise. When bacteria flow from the infected teeth and reaches the blood vessels, the blood’s platelets start to stick together, which can cause a change in the internal lining blood vessels. These changes make the hollow internal cavity narrower, which reduces the blood flow that carries the oxygen and food to the organs including the muscular system. This means that muscles do not receive sufficient oxygen needed to maintain performance, which can make them leaner and more susceptible to spasm or muscle tear.

The bacteria can also affect the blood’s viscosity which can lead to partial or total blockage of some of the heart’s blood vessels. Decay can cause chronic infection of the jaw, which may lead to cystic lesions, which essentially leads to bone loss. Therefore, the risk of jaw fracture is increased in comparison to a healthy jaw. In some advanced cases, surgery may be required, with bone transplantation, which may lead to extended time away from the field”.

Aspetar introduces the Middle East’s first Emergency Dental Kit

Aspetar is the first hospital in the Middle East to launch a first-aid dental kit, a unique initiative that enables competent pain relief and treatment of oral injuries for athletes on and off the field.

The kit was carefully-designed to include a number of dental materials and tools needed to treat the most common oral remove injuries among athletes. It is particularly useful when athletes are far away from a hospital or a dentistry clinic when athletes are taking part in international training camps. The dental kit was introduced through Aspetar’s Sports Dentistry department at a unique workshop organized for the sport clubs and federations doctors in Qatar. The kit also contains a step-by-step guide on how to use the tool kit, as well as the emergency on-call contact number at Aspetar’s Sports Dentistry Department for any oral emergency situations.

‘Healthy Ramadan with Aspetar’

Aspetar, Qatar’s orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital, has announced the launch of a new “Healthy Ramadan” campaign. The campaign seeks to increase awareness of the importance of adopting an active and healthy lifestyle during the Holy month, promoting physical activity among community members in Qatar, professionals and recreational athletes alike. Running throughout Ramadan, these topics will be shared via Aspetar’s official social media channels. To encourage viewers to take on an increased interactive role, there will be short videos that will be posted across all Aspetar’s social media channels including Instagram and Facebook’s “Story” feature as well as the hospital’s official YouTube channel.

Aspetar’s Healthy Ramadan campaign will also shed light on the latest research findings from its acclaimed health experts who have spent years studying the effects of fasting on sports performance and athlete health overall.