why do my teeth hurt after swimming

Can Pool Chlorine Damage Your Teeth?

You take care of your teeth every day with regular brushing and flossing, yet they’re still weak and discolored—what gives? If you’re an avid swimmer, chlorinated water could be the culprit. 

Swimming is an excellent way for both kids and adults alike to exercise or unwind in the summer. However, the chlorine in swimming pools can harm your teeth. At Sunrise Dental, we want to help the whole family maintain bright, healthy smiles all year round. Let’s take a look at why your teeth might hurt after swimming, and how to protect them from chlorine. 

The Effects of Chlorine on Teeth

Why Do My Teeth Hurt After Swimming?

If you notice that your teeth hurt after swimming, it’s most likely from too much exposure to chlorine. Because there are so many germs that can live in water and cause serious illnesses, chlorine gets added to pools and hot tubs to adjust the pH balance and kill them. 

However, if there’s too much chlorine in the water, the pH level lowers and it becomes too acidic. This strong acidity can wear down your tooth enamel, leading to tooth pain and sensitivity. Enamel erosion also leaves your teeth vulnerable to cavities and decay. Toothaches after swimming could indicate a poor pH balance in the pool.

Even with a proper pH balance, the chlorine in swimming pools can still weaken your teeth after prolonged exposure. If you regularly swim laps or if your kids visit the local pool every day, enamel erosion from the chlorine is more likely to occur, regardless of the amount in the water.

Does Chlorine Stain Teeth?

Over-chlorinated water and/or prolonged exposure to chlorine can also cause the type of tooth staining known as swimmer’s calculus. Chlorinated water contains antimicrobials that have a higher pH than your saliva. When the water enters your mouth, it causes the salivary proteins to break down too quickly and leaves discolored deposits on the plaque and tartar that sit on the surface of your teeth.

Chlorine and Dry Mouth

Too much chlorine exposure doesn’t just dry out your skin, it can also cause dry mouth. When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it causes a condition called xerostomia. Your mouth needs saliva to wash away food particles and harmful bacteria, so when there isn’t enough of it, your risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases significantly. 

How to Protect Your Teeth from Chlorine

  1. Keep your mouth closed as much as possible when swimming, to reduce exposure to chlorine. 
  2. Pay attention to the pH balance of the pool. If the pool ladder, lining, and other surfaces are clearly eroding, then the water is too acidic, and will certainly damage your teeth. Make sure to test your pool’s pH balance once a week or talk to your local pool’s operator to find out which chemicals they use and how often they test the water. 
  3. Rinse your mouth after swimming with regular water to help restore the pH level in your mouth. Using a fluoride mouthwash to strengthen your enamel can also help. 
  4. Do not brush your teeth right after swimming. The acidity of the water softens your enamel for a short period of time, so brushing can actually do more harm than good. Wait at least an hour after swimming to brush your teeth. 
  5. Use fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth strong. Fluoride remineralizes your enamel, and repairs the damage from chlorine. 
  6. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams. Professional teeth cleanings remove plaque that everyday brushing and flossing just can’t reach, helping to prevent tooth decay. Plus, the cleaner your teeth, the less risk of staining from chlorine—discolored deposits need plaque and tartar to stick to. 

Family Dentist in Peoria, Arizona

If you or your children complain of tooth pain after swimming, there may already be significant damage from chlorine. At Sunrise Dental, we offer a variety of dental services to restore your smile. If you’re interested in tooth whitening, fluoride treatments, or would like to schedule a checkup, give us a call at 623-487-4870 today. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/16/2022). Photo by Marcus Ng on Unsplash