Swimming Pool Chlorine and Teeth

Swimming pool chlorine can have some negative effects on teeth if children spend many hours of the day in the water. Learn more.
Swimming Pool Chlorine and Teeth
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 17 January, 2023

It’s common for parents of children who swim to wonder if the chlorine in the pool can affect their children’s teeth. In this article, we’ll tell you about the relationship between this chemical compound and oral health.

Swimming pools are frequented by a large number of people throughout the year. Even more so during the summer season. To prevent the presence of so many people from affecting water quality, chlorine treatments are used to preserve cleanliness. However, the incorrect use of chlorine in the pool alters the pH of the water and can damage the health of the teeth. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.

The relationship between pool chlorine and dental health

Chlorine is a chemical substance used in the treatment of swimming pool water to prevent the presence of germs. Without its disinfectant power, bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are capable of causing disease would proliferate. However, the use of this chemical has some negative effects on people’s health when there’s great exposure.

The contact of chlorine with the skin, especially with the most sensitive ones, causes drying, irritation, and allergic reactions. Even the hair suffers consequences: Hair dries out and light-colored hair can acquire a greenish tone.

In general, there’s usually no problem for children who spend some time in the water, but the consequences appear in those who are in the pool for more than six hours a day, such as professional swimmers or swim teachers.

What happens to the teeth?

In addition, teeth can suffer from excessive contact with chlorine in the pool. This chemical agent is capable of eroding the enamel, which is the surface layer that covers and protects the teeth. As a result, teeth become more sensitive to external agents. For this reason, it’s common for dental discomfort to appear when ingesting sweet, cold, or hot food or drinks.

At the same time, the dryness that chlorine causes on the skin also includes the oral mucosa. The soft tissues dry out and there’s less saliva to lubricate and clean the mouth. Therefore, the following conditions may occur:

  • Accumulation of bacterial plaque
  • The appearance of caries
  • Gingivitis
  • Bad breath

The pH of swimming pool water

The pH is an indicator that allows us to know the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. When the value is between 0 and 6, it’s acidic; if it’s 7, it’s neutral; and above 7, it’s alkaline. The use of chlorine in swimming pools keeps the pH of the water between 7.4 and 8. This differs from the pH of the mouth, which ranges between 6, 8, and 7.

This difference in values can cause problems in the mouth. A more alkaline pH in the water promotes the formation of dental tartar, i.e., the deposit of mineral salts on the bacterial plaque accumulated on the teeth. This phenomenon is known in the dental field as “swimmer’s tartar”.

Tartar deposits on the teeth cause the appearance of yellowish or brownish stains on the tooth surfaces. In turn, the presence of dental calculus also increases the risk of developing periodontal problems. Conversely, when the chlorine in the pool is insufficient, the pH of the water can drop below 6 and become very acidic.

A mother, father, and son swimming in a pool together.
The contact of chlorine with the teeth favors the erosion of the enamel, the loss of dental minerals, and the appearance of sensitivity. In any case, with good dental hygiene, there should be no problems.

How to protect your teeth from swimming pool chlorine

The negative effects of swimming pool chlorine on teeth are usually seen in people who spend more than 6 hours a day in the water. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to take some precautions to help reduce the risks and take care of your teeth:

  • Pay attention to pool maintenance. Don’t over-chlorinate, but don’t under-chlorinate either.
  • Teach children not to put pool water in their mouths or swallow it.
  • Take care of oral hygiene: Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. In addition, flossing and, if recommended by the dentist, mouthwashes should be used. Fluoride helps counteract the loss of minerals from the teeth and reduces sensitivity.
  • Maintain hydration: Drinking water throughout the day at the pool maintains adequate hydration and promotes salivary production.
  • Opt for a healthy diet that includes dairy products, vegetables, fish, and meat. If possible, avoid snacking on sweets, soft drinks, and candy.
  • Use a personalized mouth guard that prevents teeth from coming into contact with water if your child spends many hours in the pool.
  • Visit a pediatric dentist and have regular check-ups to detect any oral problems as soon as possible.

Teeth care

As you’ve noticed, the chlorine in the pool can affect your children’s teeth if they spend many hours a day in the water. If the swimming time isn’t excessive and you take care of their oral hygiene with proper brushing and fluoride toothpastes, chances are that there won’t be any problems in their mouth. With your guidance, your little ones will be able to enjoy splashing around without putting their oral health at risk.

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