It’s fun, it’s refreshing and it’s one of America’s favorite summer pastimes: swimming in the pool. Swimming provides the body with heart-pumping yet low-impact exercise that’s gentle on the joints. It also can improve muscle tone and body strength and constitutes a full-body workout. But for all the good swimming does for our bodies, it could be doing harm to one particular area of the body: the mouth. Here’s why swimming can be dangerous to your oral health, and what you can do to protect yourself while making a splash this summer.
No, its not a special math class for pool lovers. Swimmer’s calculus is a type of buildup that occurs on the teeth from the raised pH of chlorine and chemicals found in pool water. Swimmer’s calculus builds up over the summer, especially if you spend more than an hour in the pool at a time. Swimmer’s calculus appears as deposits of yellow on the teeth. Though it may be unsightly, thankfully swimmer’s calculus is temporary and can be removed by going to the dentist for your regular cleaning
Chlorine and Your Teeth
Chlorine can be a useful chemical when it comes to keeping the water in your pool clean and free of germs and bacteria, but it can also take a toll on your skin, causing it to dry out. It can even discolor and dry out your hair, irritate your eyes, and burn your lungs. But it can also cause problems in the mouth – namely sensitive teeth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, pools with a pH of lower than 7.0 pose the highest risk to your teeth, including enamel erosion. Enamel erosion occurs when the enamel of the teeth wears away, exposing the lower layers of the tooth known as the dentin. Aside from being unsightly, this can cause tooth sensitivity. Worse yet, enamel does not grow back, so fixing enamel erosion may require sealants, veneers or even a procedure called gum grafting, which can help raise the gumline and reduce sensitivity along the gums.
An Ounce of Prevention
So how can you prevent swimmer’s calculus and enamel erosion due to chlorine? Try to not ingest or get pool water in your mouth. Keep your mouth closed while swimming, diving or standing in the water. When you are done in the water, rinse your mouth out with fresh tap water or bottled water, and apply the same rules as you would to brushing after eating an acidic food. Wait at least 30 minutes after exiting the pool to brush your teeth so the enamel has a chance to reharden.
For questions or concerns or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.