Surfers Smile: What Saltwater Does to Your Teeth

Surfers love to spend hours upon hours riding the waves. While all that surfing can be fun and relaxing, it could be increasing your risk for developing a number of dental problems ranging from increased tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation to infections and enamel erosion.

Surfing Doesn’t Hurt Your Teeth It is the Salt Water

Actually jumping on a surfboard and riding the waves isn’t what puts the health of your teeth and gums at risk. It is the type of water that surrounds you.

Saltwater, when consumed in large quantities, can damage your teeth, irritate your gums, and even dry out your mouth. While you aren’t actually drinking the saltwater from the ocean, you are being constantly exposed to it. Every time you fall in the water or a wave hits you, you might get some saltwater in your mouth which puts you at risk of experiencing any of these dental problems.

A Little Saltwater Doesn’t Hurt Your Teeth

Exposure to a little saltwater won’t hurt your teeth. In fact, some research suggests that rinsing your mouth out with saltwater every so often can actually improve your oral health. Of course, we don’t recommend you go out and rinse your mouth out daily with saltwater or start drinking it as a beverage, but occasional exposure to saltwater – either when you are surfing or as a mouth rinse – won’t hurt your teeth, it could help it.

Exposure to moderate amounts of saltwater has been proven to have the following benefits:

  • Soothes minor irritation of the gums
  • Helps speed up healing of any sores located around the gums or cheeks
  • Help reduce or eliminate the number of bacteria in the mouth that may cause inflammation or infections

Exposure to Too Much Saltwater can Hurt Your Physical and Oral Health

Occasional exposure to exposure to ocean water or rinsing your mouth out with saltwater won’t hurt your teeth and gums. However, major dental problems can occur if you are exposed to too much saltwater.

The sodium in saltwater can cause your body to increase urination. Urination is increased in an effort to get rid of the high amounts of sodium, but it also gets rid of stuff your body needs such a calcium. If your body gets rid of too much calcium it can cause a number of oral health problems including erosion of enamel and bone loss.

Enamel serves as a protective barrier for your teeth. If your body doesn’t have enough calcium, the enamel can become weakened and start to break down. Once your enamel breaks down, a number of oral health problems can occur such as increased sensitivity to hot and cold, tooth pain, cavities, or cracked or broken teeth.

Another common problem caused by the loss of too much calcium is bone loss. All of the teeth in your mouth are held in place by the bones in your jaw and upper mouth. If your body doesn’t have access to enough calcium the bones in your jaw and upper mouth can start to weaken. When this happens, your teeth can start to shift and change positions or even fall out.

In addition to the loss of calcium caused by exposure to too much saltwater, another problem you can experience is decreased saliva production. A decrease in saliva production can cause your tongue to become extremely dry which results in small cuts, encourage bacteria to grow in and around the gum line, or dry out teeth which makes them more susceptible to breaking or cracking.

What to Do if You like to Surf or Swim in Saltwater?

If you are around saltwater a lot, whether you are surfing or swimming, it is important that you visit your dentist for routine examinations every three to four months. These routine examinations will allow your dentist to monitor your oral health. If any problems arise from too much exposure to saltwater, your dentist will be able to treat them before they cause too much damage.

Is it time for a routine dental exam? If so, call Cocoa Beach Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping you keep your teeth and gums happy and healthy!  

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