Oceans, pools and oral health

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July 12th, 2018

Swimming is a great way to enjoy the summer sun, but how do your teeth feel about it? Learn about the effects that ocean and pool water can have on your smile.

Ocean water

While we certainly don’t suggest drinking it, going for a swim in the salty ocean water may actually benefit your teeth. In fact, salt has healing properties for sore throats and mouth sores. Swishing with a mixture of salt and drinking water after oral surgery can even prevent infections.

However, Scuba divers sometimes experience a condition called “tooth squeeze” (also known as barodontalgia) from pressure changes in deep waters. Diving too far to catch a glimpse of a deep-water fish can cause mouth pain and could damage tooth fillings and crowns. If you’re a frequent diver, talk to your dentist about ways to prevent or treat this condition.

Pool water

Ocean water isn’t a threat to your smile, but chlorinated pool water is a different story. Exposing teeth to improperly chlorinated pools (those with a pH level below seven) can erode enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. It can also lead to staining and a condition called swimmer’s calculus. When exposed to chlorine for more than six hours a week, teeth can turn yellow or brown and develop hard deposits as the plaque on your teeth reacts with chlorine. If you swim in chlorinated pools often, talk to your dentist about preventing staining, swimmer’s calculus and enamel erosion. Your dentist will be able to provide treatment if you’ve already begun experiencing symptoms.

If you wear a dental appliance, like a retainer, be sure to take it out before you take a dip! These items can be easily lost while swimming.

Remember – summer is just as much of a hazard to teeth as hockey season. The lifeguard telling you not to run at the pool may be saving you from the slip and fall that knocks a tooth out. So do your mouth a favor, and be careful!