According to Brazilian newspaper Globo, Bolt was dealing with a painful abscess in one of his teeth during the Olympic Games. A tooth-related abscess occurs inside the tooth where the nerve is dead or dying.
Despite the infection, the Jamaican sprinter was able to win gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. He added three gold medals to his career total of nine.
The world record-holder reportedly had the tooth treated in the Olympic Village a day before he left Rio de Janeiro. Many athletes receive dental treatment while in the village, and the results are alarming. According to a study conducted at the 2012 Olympic Games, athletes visited dentists in the village over 1,900 times. 55 percent had cavities and three quarters of the group had gum disease.
Some Olympic athletes have suffered from dental problems that compromised their performance--notably, British rower Alan Campbell, who nearly missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to an abscessed lower-left wisdom tooth.
According to the National Post, Campbell's infection spread to his shoulder, back and eventually settled in his right knee. The infection required intense surgery two months before the Games. He competed and finished fifth overall in the single-sculls final, but could have missed the Games entirely.
Campbell went on to earn a bronze medal at the 2012 Games. He now prioritizes his dental hygiene by flossing and staying away from sugary foods and drinks.
"I'm not saying someone with perfect teeth is going to beat Usain Bolt," Campbell told the Associated Press. "But myself with good dental hygiene versus myself with bad dental hygiene: The version of me with good dental hygiene will be the one that comes out on top, I'm certain of it."
Clearly, even a Bolt with bad dental hygiene is still the best in the world.