Summer is the best season for outdoor activities and fun. One of the best ways to cool off in the summer is swimming. When you are in the pool, relaxing under the water, the last thing that comes in your mind is your teeth. Often the pool water is purified by adding chlorine. As much as it helps to make the pool water safe for people, chlorine can have severe, long-lasting effects on the teeth.
Chlorine is essentially an antimicrobial compound which is added as a disinfectant to drinking water or water in the swimming pool. This property helps to kill harmful bacteria. So how does chlorine affect your teeth? Well, large amounts of chlorine change the pH levels of pool water. When you spend long hours relaxing in the pool, these acidic changes start to damage the tooth surface. (1)
Enamel erosion, discolorations, tooth sensitivity, and dry mouth, are some of the common side effects of chlorine exposure to the mouth. The best way to avoid damage of your teeth by chlorine is to know about the effects and take precautionary measures. This article will explain to you in detail about the harmful effects of chlorine on your teeth and what you can do to avoid the damage.
What is chlorine?
Chlorine is a chemical element which is commonly used as an antimicrobial agent. It is extremely reactive and has a potent oxidizing property. Elemental chlorine or chlorine generating compounds are some of the common agents used as disinfectants in swimming pools.
Addition of chlorine increases the acidic levels of the water which helps to kill and stop the growth of bacteria. Furthermore, chlorine helps to clean and sanitize the water to make it safe.
Is chlorine safe for the teeth?
Usually, stagnant alkaline water like the one present in swimming pools become a hub for bacterial growth. These bacteria interfere with the systemic health as well as oral health of an individual. Chlorine is one of the key components that helps to balance the pH levels of the water and inhibit bacterial growth. Its antimicrobial activity makes the water safe.
However, excessive amounts of chlorine can prove to be hazardous for the tooth surface. Recent studies have shown that prolonged exposure of teeth to chlorinated water causes tooth sensitivity, enamel erosion, and teeth discoloration.
How does chlorine affect your teeth?
Chlorine is an acidic compound. Acids often react with tooth enamel and cause erosion of the tooth surface. The effects of chlorine may not be immediate, but over time, chlorine can severely affect the health of your teeth.
Some of the typical tooth damage caused by chlorine include –
Saliva in the mouth plays an essential role in flushing out the food particles and plaque from the tooth surface. It, therefore, allows less bacterial accumulation and protects the tooth from dental caries and gum diseases. (2)
However, prolonged exposure to chlorinated water tends to cause dry mouth. Lack of saliva in the mouth allows plaque accumulation and increases the risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation. Furthermore, chronic dry mouth causes mouth sores and ulcer formations.
Chlorine changes the pH levels of the water and makes it more acidic to inhibit bacterial growth. These acidic levels often react with tooth enamel and cause acid erosion. (3)
Over time, the enamel begins to get weaker and chips off easily from the tooth surface. Further complications may include cracks and cavities in the tooth surface. Enamel erosion is a gradual process which may go unnoticed by an individual. The effects of enamel erosion are only visible when the tooth becomes excessively weak.
Another common side effect of chlorination is tooth sensitivity. This condition is often a consequence of enamel erosion caused by chlorinated water. When the enamel starts to erode from the tooth surface, it exposes the underlying dentin and its nerve endings. After that, any changes in the pressure or temperature may affect the sensitivity of the tooth.
Tooth discoloration caused by chlorinated water is often referred to as swimmer’s calculus. Chlorine leaves a layer of dark yellow to a brown stain on the teeth. The process of discoloration is not rapid. However, it becomes noticeable at a stage when the enamel has already been eroded. (4)
What should you do to protect your teeth from chlorine?
Now that you know about the acidic pH level of pool water, it is wise to keep in mind the tips mentioned above, to avoid unnecessary damage to your teeth.
- One of the right ways to check the pH level of pool water is to look at the lining and railings of the pool. Usually, high acidic water causes spots of erosion on these surfaces. An ideal pH level of pool water should be within 7.2 – 7.8.
- If you are spending too much time inside the pool, make sure to rinse your mouth with clean drinking water, followed by tooth brushing. Rinsing the mouth will wash away the acids from the tooth surface and brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste will ensure remineralization of the enamel.
- Dry mouth is one of the common problems among swimmers. Keep yourself well hydrated.
- Try to keep your mouth closed for as long as possible, while you are inside the pool. This will reduce the contact of chlorinated water with the tooth surface.
- Visit your dentist to check for any dental changes and get them corrected at the initial stages.
Take away message
Everyone enjoys swimming in the summers. It is one of the most fun activities, especially for kids. But do you know that swimming can also have adverse effects? As a measure of sanitation, the pool water is made safe by adding disinfectants, most commonly chlorine. Chlorine is a chemical antimicrobial agent used to kill the bacterial growth in the water.
Although chlorine is the most useful means of clearing up the pool water, it also comes with certain disadvantages. Chlorinated water causes enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, and tooth discoloration. Often these changes are gradual and take time to become noticeable.
However, it is always better to stay informed about the effects of chlorine on the teeth. The precautionary tips given in this article will help you to protect your dental health. Visit your dentist to get your routine dental check-up.