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How Swimming Pools Can Hurt Your Teeth
Improper pH levels could mean serious—and rapid—tooth decay By Emily Leaman
Comments () | Published May 24, 2011

Your teeth are probably the last things you’re worried about when you spend time in a swimming pool, right? A soon-to-be released paper from a team at New York University’s College of Dentistry notes the damaging—and irreversible—effects improperly chlorinated pools can have on tooth enamel.

Turns out, pool water that’s too acidic—meaning the pH balance is below 7—can erode tooth enamel very rapidly. Researchers found that pool water with a pH balance between 2.7 and 7 caused tooth damage. Properly balanced pools should register between 7.2 and 7.8.

The NYU paper is based mainly on a 52-year-old patient who complained of extreme tooth sensitivity, staining, and enamel loss over a five-month period. The authors later linked the patient’s tooth issues with his regular 90-minute exercise routine in his backyard pool, which he’d started that summer. The connection between pool chlorination and tooth damage has also been noted by the Centers for Disease Control and other dental journals.

The takeaway? If you’re lucky enough to have your own swimming pool, here’s one more good reason to go ahead and spend the money to have a professional maintain it. At the very least, you should check your pool’s pH balance once a week. Once your tooth’s mineral-rich enamel is gone, it’s gone—and you can’t get it back.

For swimmers who frequent public or shared pools, you can actually test for acidity on your own using a pH strip, available at pool-supply stores. Or you can eyeball it and use a bit of common sense: Pool water that’s too acidic will eat away at pool lining and any metal surface, such as ladders and railings. If you notice spots of wear or rust, you might not want to get in the water.

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  • Now this was something that I didn't expect to hear at all. I go swimming twice a week! I wonder how bad my teeth are now because of all the chlorine it has been exposed to. I definitely need to see a dentist this week!

  • I didn’t know that chlorinated pools can cause damage on our tooth enamel. I will try to observe some of my friends who are swimming athletes.

  • My sister always join swimming contest in her school since she was a kid but I don’t notice any problem with her teeth. I guess that proper oral care is the key to prevent damage on tooth enamel because she religiously visits our dentist for checkup.

  • Once you know whether you should be looking at beaded pool liners or overlap pool liners, the next step is to determine what size and shape your new liner needs to be in order to fit your pool. Most retailers offer both types of liners for round above ground swimming pools and oval above ground swimming pools. To determine the proper size for your beaded or overlap liner, simply check the specifications in the material that came with your pool when you purchased it or use a measuring tape to carefully measure on your own.

  • Determining whether your particular swimming pool is designed to accommodate beaded swimming pool liners or overlap swimming pool liners is a very simple task. If your pool is designed for overlap liners, the excess fabric will be visible hanging over the edge of the pool wall once you remove the top rail. In contrast, if your pool is designed for beaded pool liners, the bead receiver will be visible once you remove the pool's top rail. Thus, determining which type of liner your pool requires can be accomplished quickly and easily.

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Posted at 02:08 PM/ET, 05/24/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs