Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Research finds link between competitive swimming and tooth staining

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
November 08, 2021

PERTH, Australia: Regular swimming can deliver a myriad of benefits that are important for cardiovascular and systemic health. One unintentional side effect that can occur, however, is tooth staining and discoloration. A research project conducted by a team of Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) students at the University of Western Australia in Perth has now found that children who swim competitively are significantly more likely to have stains or discoloration on their teeth.

The project was completed by the students—Susan Cai, Bryan Huong and Matthew Macdonald—under the supervision of Dr Jilen Patel and as part of their DMD coursework. They examined 100 competitive swimmers between 5 and 17 years of age from four West Australian swimming clubs, who each completed a questionnaire regarding their oral health routine, swimming frequency and other factors, including diet.

Intra-oral photographs were taken of the participants’ incisor and canine teeth. “These [photographs] were analysed and a global stain index score was determined, scored by three independent assessors,” Dr Patel said in a press release.

Overall, 82.2% of the swimmers were found to have tooth staining, compared with just 44% of a control group of age-matched non-swimmers. According to Dr Patel, the results also showed that the length of time a child swam was associated with greater stain intensity, regardless of factors such as oral hygiene or diet.

“The researchers found this had a negative effect on the young swimmers’ quality of life, with dissatisfaction with smiling and smile avoidance greater in the children who had greater staining,” Dr Patel added.

Cause of dental issues in swimmers not quite clear

A number of studies have suggested that elevated levels of tooth staining among swimmers could be linked to pool chlorination levels, and Dental Tribune International has previously reported on a Polish study that stated that “pool water with a low pH can cause very rapid and extensive dental erosion”. However, Dr Patel affirmed that further research would be needed to determine what, exactly, had caused the competitive swimmers to experience staining, noting that it could be “chlorine levels, pool pH or salivary composition”.

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