Recently, we had a patient ask about a rumor she had heard through a friend. The rumor was that swimming in a pool can cause damage to your teeth. I remember reading about “swimmers calculus” which is hard, brown tartar deposits that are usually found on the front teeth but I hadn’t heard of any potential for permanent damage.
Swimmers calculus is a common condition among competitive swimmers that spend several hours a day in the pool. It is caused by the increased breakdown of proteins in your saliva by pool water that has been treated with chemicals. These proteins form deposits on your teeth that then calcify and become what we know as tartar.
Some research on my part revealed another condition, also caused by the chemicals added to pool water, called enamel erosion. When chlorine is added to pool water, the pH is changed. Studies have shown that a pH ( measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution) of below 5.5 will cause enamel erosion. Some swimming pools that were tested had a pH as low as 2.7 which is close to the pH of vinegar.
A study by New York University College of Dentistry found that enamel erosion occurs at a pH between 2.7 and 7. The recommended pH of a pool is between 7.2 and 7.8. Any deviation from this pH has the potential to cause irreversible tooth damage.
As the warm weather ends, many people move their swimming routines to indoor public pools. You probably think that you are safe because these pools are maintained by trained professionals, but that is not always the case. To minimize your risk of enamel erosion, we recommend minimizing the amount of pool water that enters your mouth. also, wait for 1 hour after swimming to brush your teeth. If the pool water is acidic, your enamel has softened and brushing can cause more damage.
Below are links to articles covering this subject. If you or someone you know may suffer from damage caused by pool water, call our office for an evaluation.