There is Something in the Water: Can Competitive Swimming Affect Your Smile?
By Ivan Paskalev DMD, College Hill Dental
We love swimming for - oh, so many reasons!
But can spending too much time at the swimming pool be detrimental to your teeth? Here are the things you may want to know about - from a pesky nuisance to the ugly danger to your smile.
The Dark Side of the Pool
It is not a secret- pool water contains antimicrobial chemicals. Generally, they give the water a higher pH than saliva, causing organic deposits on swimmer's teeth. The result is swimmer's calculus, hard, brown tartar deposits that appear predominantly on the front teeth.
Problem is not only cosmetic- build up on your teeth can predispose you to gum disease. Throw in plaque retaining braces and you could have a messy combination. Swimmers who notice the stains should talk to their dentist and perhaps increase their dental visits to three or four times a year.
Careful with the Pearly Whites.
During the summer, swimming pool accidents can be one of the most common cause of dental emergencies. Running on slippery, slick cement and ceramic pool surfaces sends many children headfirst into the ground, often causing chipped or displaced teeth. Swimming underwater and quickly coming to the surface can causes some children to hit the hard ledge, loosening the front tooth. Diving into shallow waters and hitting the bottom can push a tooth up and even can fracture the whole jaw bone.
Get the pHacts.
This problem is not likely to occur in the YMCA, Amazon or Sheldon pools, where water chemistry and pH is well regulated. In backyard swimming pools and hot tubs however, chlorination can be tricky and acidity can vary widely. Teeth coming in contact with large amount of water with low pH (too acidic) can lose their enamel surface and damage can be permanent. This is known as dental erosion and can render teeth sensitive, discolored, with thinning, transparent incisal edges. While a little bit of enamel erosion might not seem like a big deal, it can lead to breaks and chips in your teeth, so it’s important that you take some steps to safeguard your teeth, while enjoying the benefits of swimming.
If you maintain your pool or hot tub, you should check your water pH weekly. It should read somewhere between 7.2 and 7.8.
It is a not a bad idea to be careful with public swimming pools when going abroad, where regulations can be less stringent. Go for the open (but supervised) water instead.
With some care you can safely stay engaged in this wonderful sport. Keep smiling, swimmers!