Many of our patients’ families enjoy the pleasures of a home pool, a shared pool at their coop or condo, or the local community pool. Swimming is excellent exercise for both kids and adults and, other than the risk of hitting teeth on a diving board, pool ladder or during a slip on wet pool pavers, swimming is a pretty safe activity. Therefore, it may surprise you to learn that your private, shared or community pool may pose a hidden danger to your child’s teeth!
At most “public pools,” such as those at the coop, condo or neighborhood, a staff member checks the pool’s pH daily to be certain it’s maintained between 7.2 and 7.8. Unfortunately, at private pools, unless a designated party (such as one of the parents, or a paid “pool guy/gal”) checks the pool chemistry weekly, environmental influences such as heat and rain can raise the pool’s pH above 7.8, at which point the water becomes alkaline. The Academy of General Dentistry states that children (and adults as well) can develop tooth stains when they are exposed to alkaline pool water for as little as 6 hours per week. Six hours a week isn’t really all that much when you think about how many of us enjoy the pool on a daily basis.
How High Pool pH Damages Teeth
When teeth are exposed to water with a high pH (i.e., higher than 7.8), the salivary proteins break down and mix with the minerals in the mouth to form hard, yellowish-brown stains. These stains are sometimes called “swimmer’s calculus,” and most often appear on the front teeth.
What To Do About Swimmer’s Calculus
A professional dental cleaning in our New York City pediatric dental office can remove the stains caused by alkaline pool water. The children of some of our very active pool families, as well as kids on swim teams who swim several hours each day, often schedule cleanings every three months during pool season to keep the stains at bay.
Low Pool pH Poses A Different Dental Concern
Water with a pH below 7.2 is considered to be acidic. As you know, acidic foods and beverages have the potential to erode tooth enamel. If your child spends a great deal of time at the pool, or is a competitive swimmer, I suggest that you examine your child’s teeth every week to see if you notice any changes in the enamel. Catching enamel erosion early can save expensive treatment later.