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Can swimming hurt your teeth?

Unlike boxing or football, swimming doesn’t usually have a bad reputation with dentists. But spending too much time in the pool or ocean can affect your mouth. Here’s how.

Swimmer’s calculus

A tan isn’t the only thing you’ll get from a lot of time spent in the pool. The longer your teeth are exposed to chlorinated water, the more likely you are to develop swimmer’s calculus. Chlorine can deposit residue on your teeth, turning them yellow or brown after constant exposure. This condition typically only affects swimmers who spend over six hours a week in chemically treated water.

Let your dentist know if you notice these stains on your teeth or your children’s teeth. Your dentist can remove the stains, offer tips to avoid them and, if it’s a chronic issue, may recommend more frequent cleanings.

Tooth sensitivity

Got a pool at home? Make sure to check the chlorine levels with a professional. Improperly chlorinated pools can cause serious damage to your teeth, wearing away the enamel and leaving your teeth brittle and sensitive.

Mouth injuries

High-contact sports like water polo or water volleyball can put you at risk for tooth and jaw injuries. Protect yourself by wearing a mouthguard whenever you play.

Tooth squeeze

If you’re a diver or snorkeler, you may be at risk for “tooth squeeze.” Also known as barodontalgia, this condition occurs in extreme altitudes, like under deep water. Air inside your teeth contracts to match the outside pressure, causing pain and even damage to fillings, crowns and dentures. Before your next dive, ask your dentist to check your mouth for untreated decay or loose restorations.

Lost dental devices

Always take out retainers before you swim. Not only can you lose them in the water, but chlorine in pools can also damage the plastic devices.

If you wear full or partial dentures, you don’t have to take them out when you swim. However, water can loosen the suction between the dentures and your mouth, so use a denture adhesive to secure their fit. If your dentures still feel loose, talk to your dentist.

What you can do

Follow these tips to protect your teeth:

  • Wear a mouthguard when playing contact water sports like water polo or water volleyball.
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and exams.
  • Turn to a professional for regular cleanings and exams.
  • Rinse your mouth with tap water after you swim.
  • Get sufficient fluoride to strengthen your enamel. Drink fluoridated tap water and brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

Last updated July 2017

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