If your child’s got yellow teeth stains or is complaining of tooth sensitivity, you’ll want to read this. Here’s why chlorine could be to blame for that yellowing of teeth and other indicators of enamel erosion, according to a dentist in Singapore. Plus, he shares his top dental tips for protecting your children’s teeth from all that swimming here in the tropics.
How does chlorine affect your dental health?
Swimming is a sport that comes with loads of benefits. It’s low-impact and easy on the joints, and offers a great, heart-healthy cardio workout. And, for kids, it’s a great way to have fun outdoors and get out lots of energy. The downside, however, is the harmful effect that chlorinated water can have on our tooth enamel.
Chlorine is added to pool water to protect swimmers from a whole lot of germs. However, chlorinated pools and hot tubs contain pH levels that can cause enamel erosion. The CDC recommends that the pH levels of treated water be between 7.2 and 7.8. If a pool is over-chlorinated, those daily laps can cause some serious side effects in your mouth – and it all starts with enamel erosion.
DR MATT THOMPSON is a dentist in Singapore, and co-founder and clinical director at Expat Dental. With more than 11 years of experience, Dr Matt has seen patients of all ages with enamel erosion.
Signs that your enamel may be eroding include the following:
- discolouration or yellowing of teeth
- tooth sensitivity
- tooth transparency
And, if you notice any hard, brown tartar deposits on the front teeth and frequent the swimming pool, it’s possible that you’ve got “swimmer’s calculus.” This occurs when teeth are exposed to chlorinated water for extended periods of time. Of course, in Singapore, year-round swimming means constant chlorine exposure.
Dr Matt says that while there aren’t many studies that provide guidance on the amount of time you should be in the pool, there are several studies that prove swimmer’s calculus is prevalent in competitive and recreational swimmers.
For little teeth, especially, he says this is important because baby teeth have thinner enamel than permanent teeth do. So, if your child is swimming multiple times a week, it’s definitely worth knowing about the steps you can take to prevent enamel erosion.
How to protect your little swimmer’s dental health
Little teeth need all the extra protection they can get in order to ward off tooth sensitivity, yellow teeth stains and other effects of erosion. While there’s no need to keep your kid from swimming, there are things you can do to help protect his or her teeth from the effects of chlorine. Here are five ways to to proactively prevent tooth sensitivity and help keep your kids’ teeth strong.
#1 Teach proper pool hygiene
It’s a good idea to teach children at a young age to swim with their mouths closed. Making it a habit early on will ensure less chlorinated water reaches their teeth in the long run. In fact, it’s safe to say that teaching children to keep pool water out of their mouths in general (even when playing in the shallow end!) is your best bet when it comes to warding off any type of swimming-related illness.
#2 Rinse right after swimming
Even if your young swimmer has done a good job of keeping his mouth closed, chlorinated water can still manage to seep into his mouth. Helping your child to make a habit of rinsing his mouth with clean water right after getting out of the pool can wash away as much of the remaining chlorine as possible. This will help prevent any discolouration or yellowing of the teeth, and protect against swimmer’s calculus.
In addition to rinsing, it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of clean water in general. Staying hydrated actually helps the body to produce saliva, which washes away harmful, cavity-causing bacteria!
#3 See your kids’ dentist in Singapore regularly
Keeping up with your child’s routine dental visits is key to ensuring they’re getting the regular cleanings they need for healthy teeth. It’s recommended that children visit the dentist every six months.
In addition to removing surface stains, your kids’ dentist in Singapore will provide the necessary fluoride treatment they need, and look out for any signs of enamel erosion early on.
If you’ve got an avid swimmer on your hands, you might be wondering, “Is swimming bad for teeth to the point that the activity should be limited?” That’s certainly something to ask your dentist about, as each child’s teeth are different.
#4 Factor in fluoride
Fluoride treatment shouldn’t be reserved for your child’s dental visit. Even at home, you’ll want to make sure your little one’s enamel is being strengthened daily with fluoride as part of a good oral hygiene routine. This includes twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day.
#5 Check the pH in pools
This is a cheap and easy way of making sure pools are properly chlorinated before diving in. There are test strips available that can show the pH and chlorine levels of the water, right on the spot.
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