There are many things that can affect your oral health. Even things that you wouldn’t think could affect your oral health can, in fact, have an effect. Swimming is one of these things. Swimming is a great form of exercise and is often a welcomed recreational activity when the weather heats up. While swimming is generally considered to be good for your overall health, there are a few things you should know to prevent it from damaging your oral health.
For starters, you should know that swimming frequently can increase your risk of certain oral health problems. This is because of the varying levels of chlorine used in swimming pools. Chlorine is an essential component used to kill harmful bacteria responsible for waterborne diseases. Although chlorine is also found in drinking water, the amount used is so small that it doesn’t have an effect on your oral health. The amount of chlorine used in swimming pools, however, is much larger and can contribute to the following oral health problems:
One of the most common oral health problems associated with frequent swimming is swimmer’s calculus. Swimmer’s calculus occurs when chlorine deposits build up on the surface of your teeth. This can make your teeth appear more yellow than usual and it can also erode the tooth enamel.
When excess chlorine accumulates on the surface of your teeth, it can start to erode the enamel. Generally speaking, the higher the chlorine concentration, the faster your enamel will erode. As the enamel deteriorates, this can allow stimuli to enter the tooth which ultimately results in tooth sensitivity.
Although chlorine is the main threat to your oral health in regards to swimming, there are a few other risks that you should also be aware of. These include:
If you scuba dive, then you are at risk for barodontalgia, or tooth squeeze. This condition is characterized by the sensation that one or more teeth are being squeezed in response to changes in ambient pressure. It occurs when there is air in your teeth that expands or contracts to match the ambient pressure. Oftentimes, barodontalgia can be a symptom of untreated tooth decay, a faulty dental restoration, or a tooth fracture. In some cases, when trapped air cannot expand or contract, barodontalgia can fracture teeth and/or dislodge dental restorations.
Oral injuries can occur at any time and should always be considered a risk of participating in any type of sports or exercise activities. With that being said, the majority of swimming-related injuries are caused by water sports such as water polo or running around the pool deck.
Lost or Damaged Dental Appliances
While this may not have a direct affect on your oral health, losing or damaging an oral appliance can affect your treatment plan. Additionally, it can also cost you more money to get a replacement fabricated.
Tips for Safe Swimming
- Manage the amount of chlorine in your pool: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that your swimming pool should fall between 7.2-7.8 on the pH scale. Free chlorine concentration should also be at least 1 part per million in swimming pools and 3 parts per million in hot tubs. Using more chlorine than recommended can cause more problems, therefore it is recommended to carefully manage the chlorine levels in your swimming pool or hire a professional.
- When using a pool that is not your own, such as while on vacation, you can estimate the amount of chlorine by looking at pool linings, railings, and ladders. In cases where the chlorine concentration is high and the water is slightly acidic, these surfaces will show signs of erosion. If this is the case, it is recommended to limit the amount of time spent in the pool or to find an alternative swimming location.
- To decrease the risk of barodontalgia, be sure to stay up to date on your dental visits. It may also be helpful to schedule a dental exam before going scuba diving to ensure you have no decay or leaky restorations. However, be sure to avoid diving for at least 24 hours after undergoing dental treatment using anesthesia.
- To prevent oral injuries, be sure to wear a mouthguard if you are participating in water sports such as water polo. You should also exercise caution when walking around the pool since water can make the ground slippery, increasing the risk of falls.
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.