Oral health deep dive: Oceans & pools

Swimming is a great way to enjoy the summer sun, but how do your teeth feel about it? Learn about the effects that ocean and pool water can have on your smile.

Ocean water

While we certainly don’t suggest drinking it, going for a swim won’t hurt. The salt in ocean water is surprisingly good for your teeth. In fact, salt has healing properties for sore throats and mouth sores. Swishing with a mixture of salt and drinking water after oral surgery can even prevent infections.

Scuba divers sometimes experience a condition called “tooth squeeze” (also known as barodontalgia) from pressure changes in deep waters. Diving too far to catch a glimpse of a deep-water fish can cause mouth pain and could damage tooth fillings and crowns. If you’re a frequent diver, talk to your dentist about ways to prevent or treat this condition.

Pool water

Ocean water isn’t a threat to your smile, but chlorinated pool water is a different story. Exposing teeth to improperly chlorinated pools (those with a pH level below seven) can erode enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. It can also lead to staining and a condition called swimmer’s calculus. When exposed to chlorine for more than six hours a week, teeth can turn yellow or brown and develop hard deposits as the plaque on your teeth reacts with chlorine. If you swim in chlorinated pools often, talk to your dentist about preventing staining, swimmer’s calculus and enamel erosion. Your dentist will be able to provide treatment if you’ve already begun experiencing symptoms.

Swimmers should always remove dental appliances, like retainers, before swimming to keep them from getting lost.

Wherever you choose to swim, these simple precautions can ensure your summer fun doesn’t take a dive. When you’re enjoying the ocean, remember to stay in designated areas, and jump in the pool only when a lifeguard is on duty. Because the pool can be slippery, it’s also easy to fall and chip a tooth. Avoid running no matter how tempting it may be.