The Dentists’ Office
Summer isn’t summer without a weekly visit to your community pool or, if you’re lucky, a daily plunge into the one in your backyard, and your teeth are probably the last things you’re worried about when you spend time in a swimming pool. Swimming is the best exercise, you hear this all the time, but what you do not hear often is that swimming can cause tooth erosion. Pool time can dry your skin, turn your hair an off color, and according to researchers can erode our tooth enamel.
Swimming pools use chlorine to keep it free from bacteria, but chlorine is harmful for the teeth as it weakens the enamel. Damage to the tooth enamel occurs when the pH balance of swimming pool water drops too low, or becomes too acidic. If you’ve ever been to a pool and your eyes start to water or your nose burns just from smelling the pool water, that’s due to low pH (not necessarily too much chlorine). When the pH drops too low, the water becomes corrosive and can stain surfaces like teeth, and irritate your skin. Proper pool chlorine and pH levels need to be monitored and maintained on a weekly basis. Properly balanced pools should register between 7.2 and 7.6
The Academy of General Dentistry states, “Athlete swimmers, who often swim laps more than six hours a week, expose their teeth to large amounts of chemically treated water. Pool water contains chemical additives like antimicrobials, which give the water a higher pH than saliva, causing salivary proteins to break down quickly and form organic deposits on swimmer’s teeth. The result is swimmer’s calculus, hard, brown tartar deposits that appear predominantly on the front teeth.” Of course, most of us don’t swim to the same extent as athlete swimmers, but protecting our teeth is just as important to us, and taking the simple steps of proper pool maintenance can go a long way to protect your teeth.
Reducing the risk of your teeth hurting after swimming requires help from everyone. By simply closing your mouth as much as you can while swimming, you reduce exposure of your teeth to harmful acids. You need to be conscious of the chlorine level of your pool and to ask questions when in doubt. For example, a heavy chlorine smell means chlorine levels might be high and your teeth could hurt. Buying strips to check the level of acidity of the pool can be helpful in maintaining proper pool maintenance and pH levels.
If you notice that you are getting stained teeth due to swimming, you may want to ask your dentists about coming in for more frequent dental visits and cleanings. In addition, you may wish to ask your dentist about applying a protective fluoride coating over your teeth which has been shown to help prevent dental erosion in intensive swimmers and certainly can’t hurt the summer crowd.