Can Swimming in a Pool Be Bad for Your Teeth?

Frolicking and splashing in a cool swimming pool on a hot summer day brings joy to kids and adults alike. It is refreshing and lap swimming is a great form of exercise. When the school year ends, many kids head to camp sessions with daily swim lessons and open pool time. Folks fortunate enough to own pools on their private property can take the plunge and indulge any time the desire take hold.

Can a swimming pool cause tooth damage?
These wet basins of joy offer much fun and opportunity for a variety of recreational activities, but frequent exposure to pool water can put your dental health at risk. Besides dehydrating your skin and turning light hair green, one of the downfalls of regular swimming pool exposure is the possibility of damaging tooth enamel.

It has been reported both by NYU researchers and The Academy of General Dentistry that extended exposure to pool water that hasn’t been well balanced can lead to brown stains on the teeth and tooth erosion. In addition, almost 750 professional swimmers between 1986 and today were surveyed. It was discovered that almost 40 percent of them had experienced tooth enamel damage due to swimming pool exposure. The survey results were published in The American Journal of Epidemiology.

Does alkaline pool water promote brown tooth stains?
Pools need to be maintained at a safe pH level of approximately 7.5. The water will become an alkaline if it reaches more than 7.8. Research has shown that when kids and adults spend more than six hours per week in an alkaline swimming pool the risk for developing brown stains on teeth increases. This unsightly discoloration results from the mixture of high pH pool water and the minerals inside the mouth. This combination becomes a dangerous substance that breaks down proteins in saliva.

Can brown tooth stains be professionally removed?
Fortunately, brown stains on the teeth from swimming are reversible with a proper cleaning. If you notice discoloration beginning to develop on your teeth or a loved one’s teeth, schedule a dental appointment immediately. Sometimes more frequent professional dental cleanings are necessary, particularly during warm seasons or anytime pool water exposure is most frequent. Also, it is very important to keep the pool’s pH level balanced correctly.

At what pH level does swimming pool water become an acid environment?
A pH balance that is too high is one problem, too low of a pH level is quite another. Anything below 7.2 is a damaging acid environment. When your eyes burn and you the pool has a strong chemical odor, the pH level is too low. This doesn’t always mean there is too much chlorine in the water. Acidic swimming pool water is irritating to your skin and very corrosive to your tooth enamel.

Everyone who swims in acid level pool water for a few hours per week is susceptible to irreversible tooth enamel erosion. This result has been proven conclusively through case studies. One report demonstrated an incident where the damage occurred in only two weeks of exposure. If you or your child swims laps regularly or participates on a team, be aware of increased sensitivity, and consistently check your teeth and your youngster’s teeth routinely for brown stains or other changes in tooth enamel.