Dr. Harwood’s Special Tips for Summertime Dental Health

Dr. Harwood’s Special Tips for Summertime Dental Health
July 12, 2019 Adam Harwood

We generally don’t think of altering our oral hygiene routines based on the seasons, but there’s actually good reason to be mindful of the calendar when it comes to our dental health.  Just as most of us are careful to brush more frequently during sweet-heavy holidays, like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, we should also be aware the specific seasons each come with their own set of dental challenges.

Let’s look at summertime.  Here are some warm weather conditions your teeth will face during the summer months that we’d all be wise to consider.

Swimming Pools

Did you know that the water quality of the pools we swim in this summer can affect our teeth? Both water pH and chlorine levels can react with teeth, potentially causing discoloration and enamel damage. The discoloration, known as swimmers calculus, causes yellow or brown staining. This can usually be remedied with a visit to the dentist for a good tooth cleaning.  But pools have another threat. Swimming pools with high levels of chlorine can actual damage tooth enamel after repeated exposure.  Be extra careful if you swim several times a week or use public or motel swimming pools where chlorine and pH level monitoring may be inadequate.

Another risk swimming pools present is chipped teeth. Every year, hundreds of people slip and fall, or miscalculate a dive, resulting in tooth breakage.  Be careful walking on the slippery surfaces around pools and always know the actual water depth before taking a dive.

Picnics and Refreshments

Sunny summer days call for frequent refreshments, and there’s no question that the body needs to stay hydrated during the season’s numerous hot spells. But during the summer, we tend to make poor rehydration choices, picking up the can of soda or glass of lemonade rather than straight water.  Those drink choices tend to be acidic and sugary – both enemies to healthy smiles.

It’s not just beverages.  Summer staples include sugary county fair treats like Cotton Candy, acid-rich Beefsteak tomato slices, and citrusy garnishes like lemons and limes.  These are traditional seasonal favorites, and we’re not suggesting you don’t partake in them. Just be sure to brush more frequently, which can be challenging when you’re at the ballpark or picnic grounds. In those cases, be sure to swish with bottled water, to help remove some of the sugars and acid from your mouth.

One other tip, avoid chewing on the ice cubes in your drink to cool off. It’s surprising how much damage chewing ice can potentially cause, not only physically breaking teeth, but also loosening fillers and hurting enamel. Keep the ice in the cup or use it to cool off externally.

Summer Activities and Sports

We typically only associate tooth damage and sports with the ole wintertime classic, hockey. But during the summer, many people, especially children, take part in outdoor activities, from baseball to rock climbing, where damage to teeth is quite possible. The best way to safeguard your teeth from possible loss while engaged in a sporting event is to do what the hockey players do and wear a mouth guard when you participate in an activity where speed and impact are factors.

Special Case: Pain during Scuba Diving: If your summer plans involve an exotic sport like scuba diving, take special notice of how your teeth feel after a dive. If you experience oral discomfort caused by the pressure changes associated with diving, you probably a condition known as Barodontalgia, or Tooth Squeeze. It’s a pretty certain indicator that you have advanced gum disease, an oral infection or failing dental work, so be sure to see your dentist or endodontist if your scuba trip involves any oral pain.

Enjoy your summer.  Just be sure to keep these seasonal threats to dental health in mind as you have fun in the sun.