The Unexpected Link Between Swimming And Tooth Decay

Most of the substances that can corrode your teeth are deliberately introduced. Yes, you know the sugar in that soda isn't doing your teeth much good. But you know about the potential for damage, and can minimize it (limit your intake, rinse your mouth afterward, and clean your teeth as appropriate). Alternatively, there are damaging substances that can be corroding your teeth without your knowledge. This next question might seem a little strange, but how often do you go swimming?

Chlorinated Pool Water

Swimming pool water isn't catastrophic to the tooth structure, but repeated exposure can begin to take its toll. Similar to damage initiated by sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates, this corrosion is slow to develop, but will soon be irreversible. Anyone who regularly swims in chlorinated pool water should consider the effects that the water may be having on their oral health.

Alkaline Water

The chemical makeup of pool water must be regularly checked. Its pH level (potential hydrogen in the compound) must be balanced. When the pH level of pool water drops, the water becomes too alkaline (acidic). This can sometimes be obvious, and after swimming in water that's too alkaline, your skin may feel sensitive, and your eyes may hurt. You don't always notice though. But how can the pH level of pool water hurt your teeth?

Extended and Repeated Exposure

Of course, you don't actively drink pool water while swimming, but some consumption is unavoidable. The acidity of the water taken into your mouth will begin to affect your tooth enamel. Any corrosive effects are slow to develop and require extended and repeated exposure. If you only occasionally use a chlorinated swimming pool, there's no need for concern. But regular swimmers might want to consider scheduling an additional checkup with their dentist.


Should any tooth decay be triggered by the alkaline content of pool water, it will start with discoloration. Pool water may lightly stain teeth, similar to the consumption of certain foods and drinks, and substances such as nicotine. This can easily be reversed with a professional dental cleaning, in which your teeth are scaled and polished, efficiently removing surface stains. Should the tooth's structure have corroded, the tooth's protective enamel has been damaged. As it cannot repair itself, your dentist will need to add a restoration (dental bonding, a dental veneer, a dental crown) to cover the missing patches of surface enamel.

Rinsing your mouth out after swimming can minimize the effects of alkaline pool water. If it's your own pool, maintaining the correct pH balance in the water can prevent damage to your teeth. If the pool is shared, you may want to ask when it's chemically treated, so you can swim when its pH level is more likely to be correct. 

For more information, contact a local dentist