Swimming is a great physical activity that works the entire body and improves cardiovascular health. No matter what stroke you use, swimming targets multiple muscle groups as you move against the gentle resistance of the water.
However, researchers have found that swimming in a chlorinated pool with pH balance between 2.7 and 7 can cause irreversible damage to teeth. Chlorine helps kill harmful bacteria by making water acidic, but it is not good for teeth. While the damage does not happen overnight, people who enjoy a daily plunge in their gym or backyard pool might be at risk of oral health problems, including:
- Dry Mouth – Chlorine tends to dry out the mouth, which affects the production of saliva. Saliva is essential for oral health because it washes away food particles and keeps bacteria under control. A dry mouth increases your risk for cavities and gum disease.
- Weakened Enamel – The acidity of chlorine can gradually weaken tooth enamel. While this does not directly cause cavities, swimmers with weak enamel are more likely to get cavities or chip teeth.
- Tooth Sensitivity – Tooth enamel provides protection to nerve endings inside the teeth. When enamel erodes, eating or drinking becomes uncomfortable or even painful. Teeth can also become sensitive to pressure and temperature, preventing you from enjoying favourite foods and beverages.
- Swimmer’s Calculus – Chlorine can also cause a dark, brownish discolouration of teeth known as “swimmer’s calculus.” No matter how well you take care of your teeth, frequent swimming can cause this brown staining. It is usually a slow process and you might not notice the change until it is readily apparent.
What You Can Do to Minimize the Risk
Although most of us do not spend hours a day in the pool, anyone who swims regularly should be mindful of the potential effect on teeth. Here are several steps to protect yourself from harmful exposure to chlorine:
- Close your mouth as much as you can while swimming. This is the simplest way to reduce exposure to chlorinated acid.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with fresh water or brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste after swimming in a chlorinated pool.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dry mouth and to keep yourself hydrated.
- If you own a pool, keep its pH level at 7.5. This is acidic enough to keep the pool safe from bacteria without posing too much danger to your teeth.
- Visit your family dentist for a twice-yearly dental checkup to make sure chlorine is not causing any problems in your dental health.
Call Lambton Shores Family Dental at (519) 704-1400 or send us a personal email. Our dentists in Forest, Ontario provide personalized attention and a wide range of dental services for patients of all ages.