BMC’s Philippe Gilbert is not performing quite as one might have anticipated given his stellar 2011. The reason: problems with his teeth. More specifically an infected jaw which systemically affects the functioning of one’s entire body and immune system.
Not unnaturally, PhilGil’s teething troubles have prompted a fair bit of discussion over the airwaves. I can’t pretend to have all the answers but I have set out below why riders – professionals and amateurs – have these issues and what they could sensibly do to prevent them. And no, I’m not a dentist but neither do I fall into the category of knowing just enough to be dangerous!
Many professional cyclists suffer from considerable acid erosion of the tooth enamel on account of the sugary drinks and snacks they constantly consume while in the saddle. This makes them more vulnerable to caries (tooth decay). Typically, if left untreated, the caries invades the tooth, killing the pulp leading to abscesses and poisoning of the blood, as in the case of Mark Cavendish a couple of years ago and now Gilbert. This can result in tooth loss, as in the case of Tom Boonen, who at one time I feared might become Toothless Tom on account of his numerous extractions.
Teams need to encourage riders to take a more preventative approach to ensure that neither the pulp nor their season is compromised. Firstly, they should use a remineralising toothpaste such as Sensodyne Repair and Protect. In addition, they should chew gum when not riding as saliva has a high calcium and phosphate content to remineralise the teeth thereby returning them to a healthier state.
This daily regime should be supplemented on a quarterly basis by visits to the dentist where they should be treated with Sylc, a high mineral powder which desensitises teeth and rebuilds tooth surfaces. At the same time, the dentist should check the level of decay in each tooth using accurate caries detection devices such as a Cariescan which precisely measures the development of caries in each tooth enabling earlier use of preventative treatments.
However, if the caries has advanced through the enamel into the dentine then restorative treatment is urgently required to prevent the development of infection. If we’re beyond this point, then the use of PAD (Photo-Activated Disinfection), which is a fast, simple and highly effective disinfection process, should eliminate the need for antibiotics and enable the dentist to perform tooth-saving endodontic (root-filling) procedures in one subsequent sitting, thereby lessening the need for removal of the tooth.
So now you know. And, sadly and to his cost, does Phil. [Something for all our readers to get their teeth into? I’ll get my coat – Ed.]