5 dental tips for swimmers

Swimming and your teeth

Swimming is a great way to stay cool this summer. But spending too much time in the pool or ocean can affect your teeth. Here's how, and what you can do to protect your mouth.

1. Pack your retainers away.

Before you jump in, take out removable dental appliances like retainers. Store them safely in a container far away from the water. Retainers can fall out in the water and get damaged or lost. The chlorinated water in pools can also damage the plastic.

If you wear full or partial dentures, you don’t have to take them out when you go swimming. However, water can loosen the suction that keeps your dentures attached, so use a denture adhesive to secure their fit.

2. Avoid tooth squeeze.

If you’re a scuba diver, you might experience a condition called “tooth squeeze” (or barodontalgia) from pressure changes in deep water. When this happens, air inside your teeth contracts to match the outside pressure. This painful condition can damage fillings, crowns and dentures. Before your next dive, ask your dentist to check your mouth for untreated decay or loose restorations.

3. Walk, don’t run.

Slow down when you’re at the pool. If you slip on the wet surface, it’s easy to fall and chip or lose a tooth.

4. Don’t overchlorinate.

If you have your own pool, make sure to check the chlorine levels with a professional. Chlorine is a strong base, and if it isn’t diluted properly, it can wear away the enamel on your teeth, leaving them brittle and sensitive.

5. Get regular cleanings.

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 affects swimmers who spend over six hours a week in chemically treated water.

Sound familiar? 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, he or she may recommend more frequent cleanings.