Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How swimming can erode your teeth

Do you have mysterious stains on your teeth despite a rigorous dental hygiene routine? Teeth especially sensitive? After your dentist rules out the usual (tea/coffee habit, acid reflux, eating disorders), she might ask you an unusual question: are you a swimmer?

An ideal pool should have a pH between 7.2 and 7.8. Years of lifeguarding have taught me to call maintenance ASAP when the pH starts dropping, because kids will start crying from stinging eyes.

An improperly maintained pool can ruin your teeth in two ways.

First, a low pH in pool water can cause dental erosion. Dental erosion resulting from patients’ swimming habit was first suggested by Dr. Savad in 1982 : “Enamel erosion… multiple cases with a common cause(?)” That question mark is not a typo.

More recently, a 2011 paper published by researchers at NYU School of Dentistry showcased a 52-year-old male whose daily exercise routine eroded his enamel layer, making them sensitive and unsightly. Another similar case was reported in Journal of Canadian Dental Association about a woman whose teeth ate away after swimming daily for two weeks. This erosion is often irreversible.

Second, another concern for swimmers is "swimmer's calculus". Chemicals in swimming pools interact with minerals in your saliva to leave dark stains on your teeth. In this study, the two subjects who spent more than ten hours a week in the pool had brown spots on their front teeth. This is more easily treatable.

So while infinity edge pools may look tempting and some even look terrifyingly fantastic, you might want to stay away.

On second thought, just bring your own pH strips before hopping in (Image).