If you are a regular swimmer you might have noticed that your teeth are changing color. Instead of the bright, healthy, shiny white they used to be, they are now turning dark yellow or even brown, and are getting a dull, chalky luster.

This is caused by chemicals in the pool water, and, although it’s unattractive, it’s not normally harmful, and can be reversed by your dentist.

Swimmer’s Calculus

Swimmer’s calculus is the technical name for the condition. Calculus is another name dentists have for tartar, the hardened calcium deposits on your teeth. Normal tartar is caused by the death and “fossilization” of bacteria and their protective coating. It tends to accumulate around the edges of your teeth, especially at the gum line and in hard-to-reach places where bacterial plaque isn’t being brushed away.

However, swimmer’s calculus is caused by reactions with the water in the swimming pool. In a properly maintained swimming pool, the pH likely ranged from 7.4 to 7.6. This means that it’s not acidic enough to damage our teeth. In fact, it’s likely less acidic than your saliva, which is where the problem comes in. When your saliva reacts with the pool water, it causes the dissolved inorganic compounds to solidify, along with some compounds from your saliva. This creates the dark brown deposits.

A Harmless Problem

Many people who experience this phenomenon worry that the chlorine in the pool is eroding their teeth the way that acidic foods can. However, if your pool is properly maintained, as we note above, the pH is too high for the water to damage your teeth.

Instead, the deposits can be scraped away as part of a normal checkup and hygiene appointment, leaving no sign that they were ever there. This may have to be done regularly.

It’s important to distinguish between this type of deposit, which normally only affects people who swim for many hours a week, and regular tartar, which is not only much more common, it’s also more harmful. Look for:

  • Color: bacterial tartar tends to be lighter in color, closer to the color of your tooth enamel, while swimmer’s calculus is darker, more yellow or even dark brown
  • Position: bacterial tartar accumulates at the gum line or in other places that are hard to brush. Swimmer’s calculus accumulates front and center on your teeth, where the most water enters your mouth when swimming.
  • Inflammation: bacterial tartar is associated with more serious redness and inflammation of your gums. Although swimmer’s calculus can occur at the same time as gum disease, they’re not connected.

No matter what kind of calculus you have, once deposits become noticeable, it’s time to have them removed. Please call (702) 873-0324 to schedule an appointment with a Las Vegas cosmetic dentist at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.