Staying Healthy While Swimming and Sunbathing

Staying Healthy While Swimming and Sunbathing

Staying Healthy While Swimming and Sunbathing

Staying Healthy While Swimming and Sunbathing

Staying Healthy While Swimming and Sunbathing

Fun in the sun and in the water are some of the best things in life, but you do need to take a few precautions to protect your and your child's health. You’re probably thinking about sun protection, but have you ever thought about how swimming might affect your lips and teeth? Read on for important information about sunscreen, lip protection, and swimmer's calculus.


Swimmer’s Calculus

What is swimmer’s calculus? Also called swimmer’s mouth, it consists of stains and tartar deposits on your teeth caused by spending lots of time in chemically treated swimming pool water. In some cases, it also results in tooth enamel starting to erode. As you might expect, swimmer’s calculus is often found in professional and collegiate swimmers, but it can affect anyone who spends at least six hours a week in a swimming pool.


The stains are caused by chlorine and other chemicals used to kill germs in swimming pools. When these chemicals get into your mouth, they break down the proteins in your saliva, which then get deposited on your teeth, causing discoloration. Many experts think that enamel erosion (which is less common than staining) is caused by pool water that isn’t maintained at a proper pH of 7.4 and gets too acidic.


The first step in preventing swimmer’s calculus is to check the water you’re swimming in. If you have your own pool, make sure you thoroughly understand the maintenance requirements, keep up with water treatments and regularly test the water’s pH. If you’re swimming in a pool owned by someone else, don’t hesitate to ask about their maintenance procedures and how often they test the water. Also inspect ladders, railings and lane markers for any signs of corrosion, which could indicate that the water is too acidic.


Try to keep your mouth closed as much as possible while swimming. If you regularly swim for exercise, consider using a kickboard or switching to breaststroke so that you can keep your face out of the water. Keep plenty of fresh water on hand so that you can rinse your mouth frequently. (Staying well-hydrated can also help prevent dry mouth caused by chlorine and hot weather.) You may want to use a fluoride mouthwash at the end of your pool session.


Lip Protection

Pool water can be even harsher on your skin than it is on your teeth, and your lips are especially delicate. Keeping your face out of the water as much as possible protects your lips as well as your teeth. To help keep your lips from drying out and developing painful cracks, apply your favorite lip balm before you dive in and reapply as necessary. Make sure your lip balm contains sunscreen!


Sun Protection

Our dermatologist friends would like to put in a word: Whether you’re splashing around or staying on dry land, you need to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. Even people whose skin doesn’t sunburn easily can potentially develop skin cancer, and the proper use of sunscreen is one of the best ways to reduce your risk. You’ve probably heard that certain types of sunscreens are now banned in Hawaii due to their effects on the ocean ecosystem, but you still have plenty of choices. Look for sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, check the expiration dates and choose an SPF of at least 30. Apply a generous amount about 30 minutes before you go outside and add more every two hours, or more frequently if you’ve been swimming. 


Sunscreen isn’t your only defense. A wide-brimmed hat will protect the skin on your scalp, ears and face. Long sleeves and pants are also good for blocking out the sun, especially if you choose ones made from UV-resistant fabric. Don’t forget sunglasses!


Of course, sunlight does have other effects on our bodies, including producing vitamin D. This vitamin is very helpful for keeping our teeth strong, so it’s lucky that we don’t need much time in the sun (generally well under 30 minutes a day) to make it. Vitamin D is also present in some foods (including eggs, beef liver, tuna, salmon, and swordfish), and you can take a supplement if you prefer to be extra-cautious about sun exposure.


In addition to taking everyday precautions, receiving regular dental care is essential for a healthy mouth. At Pediatric Dental Group, we're devoted to keeping your child's teeth strong and teaching good dental habits. Contact us to schedule your child's appointment or to consult our expert staff about any of your dental health questions.

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