Photo of person swimming in a pool wearing a swim cap and goggles, with article title text: swim away from dental damage this summer

Swim Away from Dental Damage This Summer

Swimming is a good way to beat the heat, but did you know it can have an impact on your dental health? It’s true!

In recent years, it has become clear that there is a link between chlorinated pool water and dental conditions referred to as swimmer’s erosion, swimmer’s calculus, or swimmer’s mouth. When left untreated, these conditions can cause unpleasant effects like enamel loss, tooth sensitivity, transparency around edges of teeth, yellow or brown staining, and tartar buildup. Fortunately, knowledge is power, and we are here to give you details about how you can avoid having chlorinated chompers.

Who Should Be Worried?

Competitive swimmers—defined as people who swim at least two hours each day five days a week—need to be especially mindful of harm caused by pool water. According to a study from the University of Western Australia, children who swim competitively have a significant increase in dental staining as compared to their peers.

On the other hand, if you are only an occasional swimmer, it is unlikely that you need to worry much about the effects on your teeth unless they are already compromised.

People who normally swim in a saltwater pool also have less to worry about. This type of pool still contains chlorine, but not as much as traditional pool water. Aside from being better for your oral health, saltwater pools have the added bonus of being milder for your eyes, skin, and hair.

Everyone, regardless of how much or where they swim, should avoid pools that aren’t regularly tested. Swimmer’s dental conditions will worsen from badly maintained pools with improper chlorine and pH levels.

graphic of woman swimming with excerpt text from the article

Preventing Damage

So, does this mean that you can no longer enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool if you want healthy teeth? Not at all! Swimming is great for your mind and body, and it’s a fun way to increase exercise during the hot summer months. However, taking a few precautions will reduce the chance of dental erosion and staining caused by pool water. Here are some tips to keep your teeth in great shape:

  • Try to keep your mouth closed while you swim.
  • Brush your teeth before getting in the water so that chemicals don’t stick to plaque.
  • If you own a chlorinated swimming pool, test the water weekly and keep the pH levels between 7.2 and 7.6 to protect enamel while still maintaining the bacteria-killing effects of the chlorine.
  • If using a public pool, there are two main things you can do to check for proper maintenance:
    • Ask questions about the facility’s pool maintenance procedures. If they aren’t testing the water regularly, try to swim in a different pool.
    • Look at structures attached to the pool such as ladders. If they show signs of erosion, chances are good that the water is not maintained properly and will do the same to your teeth.
  • Go for a relaxing dip in the water instead of swimming, and that way you can keep your head out of the water entirely.
  • There is some evidence that chewing xylitol gum three times a day can lower the risk of erosion.
  • If you swim six hours or more a week, tell your dentist and make sure to keep up on your recommended maintenance cleanings so any problems are caught early.
    • One option that the dentist may suggest is a special fluoride treatment for added enamel protection.

Many people are still unaware of the effect swimming can have on teeth, so share this article with a friend to save their smile this summer!

Smith Valley Smiles

2311 Highway 208
Smith, NV 89430
Phone: 775-465-2388

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Blue mouthwash in a bottle and blue toothbrush with text: Mouthwash: Friend or Foe?

Mouthwash: Friend or Foe?

Every dentist will tell you that it is necessary to brush and floss your teeth to maintain your oral health, but what about using mouthwash? Is it an essential part of your dental routine, a neutral addition, or actively harmful? While there isn’t a dental consensus about the necessity of mouthwash, there are certain facts that can help you decide whether it is right for you.

Ingredients Matter

Mouthwashes are not one-size-fits-all, and the ingredients and effects vary. However, according to the ADA, there are two distinct varieties: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouthwashes are solely used to provide a fresh, clean feeling and to temporarily minimize bad breath for several hours. If you are only looking to use a mouthwash to improve your oral health, these types of mouthwashes are unnecessary.

Therapeutic mouthwashes, on the other hand, have more varied ingredients and can provide a number of benefits including the reduction of bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. They can also whiten teeth and decrease pain.

Here are the most common mouthwash active ingredients to remember and the function of each:

  • Fluoride: strengthens enamel, cavity prevention
  • Chlorhexidine: treats and prevents gingivitis, prevents the buildup of plaque, and lowers the chance of getting dry socket after a tooth extraction (can cause staining)
  • Peroxide: whitens surface of teeth, kills germs
  • Xylitol: dry mouth relief
  • Lidocaine: local anesthetic that provides temporary pain relief
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride: kills bacteria that can cause bad breath

Many of the active ingredients in therapeutic mouthwashes are available over-the-counter at your local drugstore, but those that contain chlorhexidine or lidocaine will require a prescription.

text from blog that says "mouthwash cannot replace your regular brushing and flossing routine" with image of toothbrushes and floss

Can Mouthwash Have Side Effects?

Unfortunately, mouthwash use has the potential for unwanted side effects. Formulations containing alcohol can cause dry mouth or canker sores. Chlorhexidine rinses can stain teeth, especially when used for longer than recommended. Additionally, bacteria-killing ingredients can wipe out the natural oral microbiome that helps to maintain healthy gums and teeth, since they can’t tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. If you must use a bacteria-killing mouthwash, use sparingly or at the instruction of your dentist.

Here are a few additional facts to keep in mind if you are considering adding mouthwash to your dental health routine:

  • Mouthwash cannot replace your regular brushing and flossing routine.
  • Kids under the age of six should not use mouthwash due to the risk of swallowing.
  • Look for rinses that have a higher pH value (more alkaline). If a mouthwash is too acidic, it can erode enamel or cause other unwanted effects.
  • If you have dry mouth, avoid using a rinse that contains alcohol.

At the end of the day, while most over-the-counter mouth rinses have beneficial properties, they can only do so much. Mouthwashes are useful for treating minor oral health issues and provide extra help to people who are prone to dental problems. It is a good idea to consult with your dentist for personalized advice and recommendations that will have the most benefit to your oral health.

Smith Valley Smiles

2311 Highway 208
Smith, NV 89430
Phone: 775-465-2388

elderly woman holding dentures

Aging and Oral Health: Know the Facts

It’s a fact that getting older results in changes to our dental health, so have you ever wondered what you can do to make sure that your teeth withstand the test of time? Is it inevitable that as we age, we will lose teeth and require dentures? Let’s talk about aging and the realities behind senior dental hygiene!

A leading reason for tooth loss amongst seniors is gum disease. What starts as mild gingivitis can advance to a severe gum disease called periodontitis, which can lead to the loss of teeth and irreversible gum damage if left untreated. According to the CDC, “70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease,” which is not a comforting statistic! However, it is a myth that senior adults need to lose their teeth, and with preventative care, there is no reason that gum disease leading to tooth loss cannot be kept in check.

Another age-related oral health occurrence is stained and weakened enamel. Our teeth aren’t immune to showing the signs of aging, and years of eating and drinking will eventually make themselves known on the surface of your teeth. Acids and sugars wear away enamel over time. This, too, can be slowed down significantly through measures such as a balanced diet with less acidic foods and standard oral hygiene.

A few more things to watch out for are decreased nerve sensitivity, dry mouth caused by medications, and gum recession. Decreased nerve sensitivity can lead to an absence of pain, but that does NOT mean that no problem exists–this can mask issues and lead to delays in treatment. Dry mouth can cause gum infections and increase the chances of tooth decay. Gum recession can expose the sensitive root of a tooth and provide a haven for bacteria to accumulate.

Unfortunately, in addition to all of the above, aging and its associated health problems can create physical limitations that make it more difficult to properly maintain oral health. Chronic health conditions can lower morale and lead to mental health issues like depression, which can make daily tasks more likely to fall by the wayside. Lower energy levels can mean prioritizing other health needs instead of oral care. In order to combat these factors, consider ideas like using a water flosser, setting tooth-brushing alarms on a phone or an alarm clock, and using a toothbrush with an extra-large handle.

This may all sound grim, but the good news is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowing how to find and treat problems is most of the battle when it comes to dental health. Plus, technology is always advancing, and new treatments will only get better with time. Following the below tips can help make sure your natural teeth will last for a lifetime!

  • Make sure you have adequate calcium intake to support your teeth.
  • To treat dry mouth and prevent enamel loss, stay hydrated and moderate your intake of beverages with alcohol or caffeine.
  • To minimize gum recession, gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and speak with your dentist to see what mouthwash may be right for you.
  • Consider an electric toothbrush to be sure you are brushing more thoroughly and for a long enough time.

And, of course, two of the most crucial ways to maintain your overall dental health as you age are also the most obvious:

  • Visit your dentist on schedule, ideally every six months, for routine cleanings
  • Brush twice a day and floss daily

With care, knowledge, and a bit of luck, you can keep your entire mouth feeling healthy and looking fantastic no matter your age!

Smith Valley Smiles

2311 Highway 208
Smith, NV 89430
Phone: 775-465-2388