Summer finally came. It was a bit cold later than normal, but now the weather is hot and the swimming pools are open. It’s time to take a dip and enjoy the season.
However, you need to be careful. Pools need chlorine, but that stuff can damage your teeth. That’s why you need to call our Wellesley, MA dental office today at 781-304-8172 and schedule your next dental exam. Dr. Tocci is your Wellesley dentist who can find problems caused by chlorine and help treat them.
The Reason Pools Have Chlorine
There’s a very good reason that pool water has chlorine in it — it keeps you from getting sick.
Harmful bacteria can be anywhere. (You even have some of them naturally in your mouth, which is why you get cavities and gum disease.) They love standing water, and they can thrive in that stuff. Swimming in an untreated pool can make you very sick.
Chlorine helps by increasing the pH level (or the acidity) of the water. If your pool has a pH of 11, that’s a bad thing. The water has almost no acid in it, meaning those bacteria can grow out of control. Adding chlorine to the water increases the acidity to where it starts to kill those bacteria and make the water safe.
There are alternatives to chlorine, but these can be expensive or hard to find. That’s why so many people and communities use chlorine in their swimming pools.
Why Chlorine Can Damage Your Teeth
If chlorine helps protect you from getting sick, why is it a problem for your teeth? Because chlorine is an acid, and any acid will cause damage. It’s not like you’re teeth are going to fall apart after taking a quick dip in the pool! But over time, this is what chlorine in pools can do to your smile.
Cavities and gum disease get worse when there are particles of food left in your mouth. That ends up feeding bacteria that cause those dental problems. Normally, your saliva helps wash away some of those particles.
But chlorine tends to dry out your mouth. That means more food particles stay in your mouth to feed the bacteria. This increases your risk of cavities and gum disease.
Acid erodes stuff. That’s just what it does. So when acidic pool water gets on your teeth, it starts to erode your enamel. This doesn’t create a cavity, but it will make your enamel weaker and more likely to get cavities or damage like chips and cracks. Even if you keep your mouth closed while swimming, some of that acidic water will get on your teeth.
Another side effect of weaker enamel is tooth sensitivity. Part of enamel’s job is to protect the nerve endings deep inside your teeth. Without enamel, eating anything would be uncomfortable. But as the chlorinated water weakens the enamel, pressure and temperature can more easily reach those nerve endings. These sensitive teeth can hurt you when you eat hot or cold foods.
Another side effect of chlorine in water is called “swimmer’s calculus.” All that chlorine leaves behind a darker, brownish stain on your teeth. As with weak enamel, you’re not going to suddenly have dark teeth. It’s a slow process, but that means you might not ever notice your teeth are getting discolored until it’s too late.
How To Protect Your Teeth This Summer
Swimming is such a great part of summer, so instead of avoiding pools, here are a few tips for protecting your teeth from chlorine.
- Rinse and brush after swimming in a chlorinated pool: Rinsing helps wash away acid from your teeth while brushing with a fluoride toothpaste helps strengthen your enamel.
- Keep your pool’s pH level around 7.5: This is the sweet spot where the water is acidic enough to kill bacteria but not so much as to easily damage your teeth.
- Keep hydrated: Since a dry mouth is a problem, making sure you drink plenty of water is a great way to fight that.
- Visit our Wellesley, MA dental office: Dr. Tocci is your Wellesley dentist trained to find problems and treat them before they get worse. You just need to come in first.