With all of its joys, summer is not without its health and safety hazards. There are the obvious ones, like sunburns, bug bites, sports/water injuries, and car trouble, and then there are the lesser-known troubles - dental troubles - that can also put a real damper on things.
The good news is that little bit of knowledge and prevention can go a long way to ensuring your and your family’s dental health and safety.
Calculus: Don’t worry, we’re not talking about advanced math. Calculus is also the name for the tartar (aka, excessive plaque build-up) that appears on your teeth. If you’re thinking, “I brush, floss, and go the dentist…I’m good,” that may not be enough if you spend a lot of hours in the pool – or soaking in the Jacuzzi - each week. Regular swimmers (six hours/week) expose their teeth to disinfecting chemicals in the water (specifically, chlorine) that also can quickly break down salivary proteins causing hard brown deposits. Get to the dentist for a professional cleaning ASAP if this is happening to you.
Over-exposure to chlorine can also cause your teeth to be extremely sensitive teeth, and can cause damage to dental enamel. According to the CDC, pool water should register between 7.2 and 7.8 on the pH scale. pH levels of less than 7.0 are most likely to harm your teeth. You can test pH levels in your home pool with a testing kit from a pool supply or hardware store. When vacationing, or using a public pool, check for signs of erosion in the pool’s railings, ladders and decks. You can also trust your nose to some extent; over-chlorinated pools tend to have a strong chemical “bleach” smell.
Diver’s Mouth Syndrome or Tooth Squeeze: If you are among the many of this country’s scuba divers, you have, no doubt, been well trained in equipment use, water safety, and sea life. But there is something else you need to know about to ensure your wellbeing: Diver’s Mouth Syndrome. This extremely painful condition is caused by air pressure changes and biting down too hard on the mouthpiece, combined with some pre-existing dental issues like cavities, root canals, loose fillings, or implant problems. If you’re a diver, it’s proper practice to get a full dental check-up before your next expedition.
Sports injuries: The downside of sports, exercise, and camp for the kids? Injuries, of course. So in order to enjoy summer sports and athletics in all their glory, we recommend that participants wear a mouth guard. There is a range to choose from, but purchasing one specifically created for you by your dentist will provide the best fit and protection.
Lip burn: You know about the importance of sunscreen whenever you’re outside, but many people neglect one of their most sensitive parts: Their lips. And that can cause severe, painful burns with dangerous long-term consequences. Prevention is easy. Just be sure to apply lip balm with SPF daily, at regular intervals.
Chipped teeth. Can openers, bottle openers, and scissors are tools. Your teeth are not tools. The next time you go to open a jar, can, or package with your teeth, take a minute and grab the right tool instead. It’s easy to forget if you’re outside and don’t have the right tool handy, but stop and think. Trips to the dentist, a lot of pain, and plenty of money can be saved if you treat your teeth right.
Dehydration: It’s easy to become dehydrated when playing summer games, even if you’re in the water. If you’re dehydrated, your body can’t produce the daily two-to-four pints of saliva necessary to keep your mouth and body healthy. Saliva is the mouth’s major defense against tooth decay, and also helps to control the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your mouth. Too little saliva can cause accelerated tooth decay, gum disease, oral sores and pain, bad breath and even interfere with your ability to taste. Have a glass of water, your teeth are thirsty.
Sweets: We know, we know. It’s summer…relax. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that sugar-filled and teeth-staining foods and beverages (soda, tea, coffee, alcohol) should always be consumed in moderation, both for your overall and dental health. Opt for beverages that aren’t packed with sugar and fruit juices, and gently rinse your mouth out with plain water after every drink or two to help neutralize the acid.
Of course, keeping your smile healthy and bright is a year-round activity. Brush your teeth twice a day at minimum, floss, and get those checkups and cleanings regularly. Good dental care isn’t cheap, but regular preventive care is so much more affordable than waiting until you need major treatments. And, with the right dental insurance or dental savings plan, you can afford to get the care you need to keep your smile in top shape!
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