Pool water may strip tooth enamel

NYU (US) — Taking a dip in the backyard pool may cause permanent damage to teeth if chlorine and pH levels are not properly maintained.

“Improperly maintained pool chlorination in swimming pools can cause rapid and excessive erosion of dental enamel,” says Leila Jahangiri, a clinical associate professor prosthodontics of New York University (NYU).

“It is a difficult balance to maintain home pools properly,” Jahangiri contends. “Proper pool chlorine and pH levels need to be monitored and maintained on a weekly basis”

Jahangiri says maintenance by a professional pool service may cost thousands of dollars a season, “so many homeowners try and maintain their pools themselves.”

Jahangiri has observed first-hand the effects of improper pH levels. In a paper not yet published, Jahangiri and NYU colleagues detail the case of a 52-year-old male patient whose main complaints included “extremely sensitive teeth,” dark staining, and rapid enamel loss over a very short five-month period beginning in May 2010.

Jahangiri and her team concluded the enamel loss was a direct result of the patient’s 90 minute swimming exercise routine he had started earlier that summer. Their findings suggest that improper pool chlorination was responsible for the patient’s dental erosion.

“If the chemical levels are not properly maintained, pool water contact with teeth can cause serious enamel erosion,” Jahangiri says. Case studies show the effect occurs when the pH of the water ranges between 2.7 and 7.

While the Center for Disease Control and various dental journals have already encountered cases of dental enamel erosion due to swimming pool chlorination, Jahangiri’s team believes that common awareness of the subject is insufficient.

“This case really worries me,” Jahangiri says. “Given all the owner-maintained backyard swimming pools there are, the possibilities for people to harm their own teeth are staggering.”

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