Summer is in full swing, and part of summer fun is frolicking in the pool. While swimming can keep you healthy and cool on hot summer days, it can also affect your oral health. The chlorine in pools, effective for killing bacteria, is actually harmful to your teeth!

Dr. Coates shares how chlorine can threaten your oral health and discusses things you can do to protect your smile…

Chlorine in Pool Water

Chlorine kills waterborne diseases that can harm us and our loved ones. Used in pools and hot tubs, it’s the first line of defense against germs that can cause serious illnesses and symptoms like diarrhea, skin conditions, ear discomfort, coughing, congestion, and eye pain. But while it’s useful, it can also negatively impact the enamel on your teeth.

How Chlorine Affects Oral Health

The pH levels in chlorinated pools and hot tubs lead to enamel erosion when you swim regularly throughout the season. This is especially true if the pool is over-chlorinated. You may not notice the amount of chlorine in your pool, but there may be an issue with the chlorine levels if you see that your teeth have become discolored, the edges of your front teeth appear transparent, or you feel extreme tooth sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods or beverages after swimming in chlorinated water.

Improper pH levels can lead to:

  • Tooth enamel damage – The acidic chlorine can accumulate on your teeth, leading to swimmer’s calculus. This condition makes your teeth look yellow, and increases erosion of the enamel.
  • Tooth sensitivity – Sensitivity isn’t far behind when the enamel begins to erode from your teeth. This protective layer keeps stimuli away from the nerve inside the tooth. When your enamel isn’t doing its job, a painful sensation occurs.
  • Increased risk of oral injuries – Swimming is a sport, and oral injuries can happen while playing any sport. This is especially true for children who tend to be a little rougher when playing in the pool.
  • Dental appliance loss or damage – While swimming, dental appliances get lost or damaged as they fall from the mouth. Usually, they are never found or discovered when someone has stepped on them. This is why it’s best to keep removable dental appliances in protective cases when in the pool.

Preventing Swimmer’s Mouth

Keep your teeth healthy by following these safety tips for preventing swimmer’s mouth:

  • Monitor chlorine levels – Too much chlorine can increase the acidity of the water, causing a host of health issues and deteriorating your enamel. If you have a pool at your home, you can protect your teeth by managing the chlorine you use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that a pool’s pH level should remain between 7.2 and 7.8, and a free chlorine concentration of at least one part per million. For hot tubs, the free chlorine concentration should be at least three parts per million.
    • pH strips are available to test your pool water before enjoying a dip. Consult a pool maintenance professional if you’re not sure about managing chlorine levels.
    • If you’re swimming in pools away from home, take note of the condition of the pool lining, ladders, and railings. If you see excessive erosion, the chlorine level is probably too high. It’s best to limit your time in the pool or find another place to swim.
  • Practice poolside safety – Staying safe in and around the pool reduces the risk of oral injuries. Ensure that everyone in your party knows not to run around the pool surface, wear protective sports mouth guards, and move dental appliances into protective cases before getting into the pool.
  • Increased risk of oral injuries – Swimming is a sport, and oral injuries can happen while playing any sport. This is especially true for children who tend to be a little rougher when playing in the pool.
  • Maintain your dental care – Getting regular dental exams allows your dentist to monitor your oral health. Your dental team will check for decay and damage to your teeth or restorations, and can keep your mouth healthy. Regular cleanings will keep your teeth free from excess plaque, tartar, and swimmer’s calculus.

Keep Your Mouth Healthy All Year Long with Dr. Stephen Coates

Following these tips when swimming in chlorine and limiting your time in chlorinated water can help you reduce the risk of enamel erosion. Practice good oral hygiene habits to ward off any harmful effects of chlorine. Brush twice a day, floss once each day, and see your dentist regularly.
Our dental team in Long Beach, CA, is here to help you prevent and treat swimmer’s mouth. Call us today at 562-434-6414 or schedule your appointment online.