Summer is upon us and there’s a lot that goes with that. Kids are out of school, the weather is warming up, we’re planning more family vacations and most of us are spending time at the pool and attending friends’ barbecues.
With everything going on, do we ever stop to think about how these changes to our daily routine also alter our daily dental routine? According to dentists, we do more damage to our teeth during the summer than at any other time. Why? Because there are more activities we participate in during the summer that can be harmful to our teeth—anything from what we eat to the trips we take to the time we spend at the pool.
Don’t despair though. There are many things we can do to protect our teeth in the summertime while also having plenty of summer fun! We just need to be aware of what could cause us harm and make some adjustments.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Part of the problem with summertime is all of the delicious foods that are in season. While they aren’t all bad, there are many that can do significant damage to your teeth if you’re not careful.
Seasonal Drinks and Foods that Do the Most Damage
- Lemonade, iced tea and sports drinks. A summer favorite, these drinks are all preserved with citric acid, which is bad for your teeth. But if you can’t stand the thought of giving these up for the summer, then follow these steps to limit the amount of damage they do to your teeth:
- Drink them in moderation
- Substitute with water whenever possible
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking
- Citrus fruits, some salad dressings and white wine. Also highly acidic, eat and drink these in moderation, substituting with water when you can. You can also eat cheese with your white wine as a way to combat the acidity of the drink. Cheese is high in calcium and can counteract the effects of the wine.
Do not brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking any of these foods and drinks (rinse your mouth with water and wait at least an hour before brushing). Acid from acidic drinks and foods attacks your teeth, eroding the enamel and dentin (the layer beneath the enamel). Brushing your teeth too soon afterward can speed up this process because it pushes the acid in deeper instead of washing it away.
Avoid Crunchy, Hard and Sticky Foods if You Have Braces
Having braces requires foregoing certain foods so you don’t risk loosening or breaking a bracket or wire or increasing your risk for tooth decay. Summer is a time that many people with braces like to excuse themselves from this diet. Don’t let yourself do that. It might be difficult to turn down the barbecue, corn on the cob and popcorn that are highly popular in the summer, but just remind yourself that you won’t have braces forever. There will be a day when you can enjoy these summer foods again, but it’s not when you have braces. And even without braces, you should eat these foods in moderation because they can still be harmful to your teeth.
Drink Plenty of Water
Not only will drinking plenty of water keep you hydrated, it will keep your mouth healthy as well. Water is great for loosening some of the bacteria that latch onto your teeth from the drinks and foods you consume. So anytime you have the option of choosing water or another summer beverage, pick water, especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside.
For more information about how to protect your teeth in the summertime when it comes to food, see 5 Tips for Healthy Summer Eating.
Check Your Pool’s pH Levels
That’s right. While chlorine keeps pools clean by killing bacteria, it’s highly acidic and over time it can severely soften your teeth, making them more sensitive and more vulnerable to tooth decay. Chlorine can also stain your teeth over time.
Does that mean you can’t hang out at the pool this summer? Definitely not! Swimming is actually a great work out and a good way to mix up your normal workout routine or get back into one. This is one summer activity you should definitely participate in, but take the proper precautions needed to protect your teeth.
Chlorine’s effect on teeth isn’t often talked about because most pools are aware of this problem and try to adhere to the proper pH levels required to keep swimmers safe. However, double-check pH levels yourself just to be sure.
Here are two sure methods to try:
- Your sense of smell. If the pool reeks of chlorine, it’s safe to assume the pH levels are probably too high.
- A pool pH test strip. If the pool smells normal, use a pool pH test strip that you can purchase online (they’re fairly inexpensive) to test the water. The ideal pH level in a pool is between 7.2 and 7.6.
What about swimming in the ocean? Fortunately for ocean-swimmers, salt water is actually good for your teeth, so you needn’t worry there.
Maintain Oral Health While Away on Vacation
Vacations are a great way to get away and do something apart from your norm. You get to relax, go somewhere new and abide by a more flexible schedule, usually. But it’s also an easy time to forget about your regular dental routine (brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day).
Kids especially have a problem with this when they go to camp or Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the summer. They don’t have someone reminding them to brush their teeth and they tend to forget about it when they’re out of their normal routine. Remind them and yourself to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste and to brush and floss as normal. Make a chart for them to go through each day to help them remember what they need to do.
Wear a Mouth Guard for Summer Sports
Make sure you and your kids are protecting your mouth when participating in sports this summer by wearing a mouth guard. You don’t want to wind up with a broken or knocked out tooth that will require an emergency dental visit if you can help it.
Particularly if you or your child is heavily involved in sports, consider getting a customized mouth guard to fit the contours of your mouth. Though more expensive, it will better protect your mouth than a generic mouth guard.
A generic mouth guard is better than none at all though so whichever one you choose, be sure to wear it when you are playing sports this summer. It should protect your teeth from getting chipped or damaged, prevent jaw injuries and help you avoid getting cuts in your mouth.
Know What to Do in a Dental Emergency
Dental emergencies can happen so be prepared. Have your dentist’s number saved so you can call and schedule an emergency dental appointment should the need arise, and put together a dental first-aid kit to address any problem that needs immediate attention.
Summer is a fun time to be outside enjoying the warm weather and the many activities associated with the season, but you don’t want to let your dental needs fall by the wayside. Remember these dental tips and you and your kids will be able to have a more enjoyable summer without any dental surprises.
And join us again on Thursday when we talk about Healthy Summer Activities for Your Kids that are both affordable and fun!
What do you do to ensure you and your kids’ dental routine isn’t forgotten during the summer months?