Swimming putting Your Teeth at Risk?

Summertime is all about smiling and having fun. It’s a time for family vacations, late night ice cream trips with family, and backyard BBQ’s. Summertime also includes lots of swimming for the entire family. Swimming is a great way to spend time together along with wonderful exercise for the entire family. But there are hidden dangers lurking in your pool for your teeth and health.

Did you know that poor maintenance of pool chemicals can damage your tooth enamel? A poorly controlled pool can cause permanent damge to your family’s teeth. Swimming pool water that is over chlorinated (a great example of this are community pools) can cause tooth enamel erosion and  permanently stain your teeth. Tooth enamel erosion is the wearing and loss of enamel by the effects of acid. Excessive amounts of chlorine in the swimming pool will lower the pool’s pH level.

This makes the pool water acidic. That acid with continued exposure over time can cause hard, brown tartar deposits and begin to cause tooth enamel erosion. If you have ever been to a pool where your eyes begin to water or your nose burns from sniffing the pool water, the pH was very low in that pool. When the pH in the swimming pool falls too low, the water becomes corrosive. This is when the water can stain surfaces like teeth, and cause stain irritation.

Back in 1986, a survey of 747 swimmers published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that 39 % of competitive swimmers presented with tooth enamel erosion. In this study, the pH of the pool water was found to be 2.7 (very acidic), much lower than the recommended pH of 7.2 to 7.8 (in the neutral range).

Disease Risk As Well?

A second reason for concern about an improper pool pH is that it can affect the effectiveness of the chlorine. When the pH becomes too low or too high, chlorine either breaks down too fast or its ability to disinfect the water slows. As a result of this, disease causing bacteria like chriptosporidium and giardia can thrive and cause health issues for the swimmers.

How to Protect Yourself and Family?

An easy way to protect yourself and your family from these harmful effects is to monitor pool chemicals and levels on a weekly basis. You can buy fairly inexpensive pool pH test strips at local pool supply stores or even online. The optimum pH level is between 7.2 and 7.8. You can even use your test strips at both community swimming pools and splash pads. They should be in the same range as your pool at home (Ph 7.2-7.8).

Options to Restore Teeth

If you notice changes to your teeth there are options to repair them. As soon as you note any changes to your teeth or anyone in your family, schedule an appointment with your dentist to have a thorough dental examination. Once it is determined you have either tooth staining or tooth enamel erosion your dentist has a few options to restore them.

Teeth Whitening. This would be used following completion of a thorough cleaning of your teeth. This would allow the dentist to remove the staining and build up on your teeth. You can choose to complete this porcedure in office or at home.

Dental Bonding. In more severe cases your dentist may need to use a tooth colored filling material to restore your teeth and cover areas that have lost enamel due to erosion. Summertime is a good time to enjoy the outdoors and have fun but we need to be smart and safe.  

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