University of Western Australia: Tooth staining no laughing matter for kids who swim

New research from The University of Western Australia has revealed children who are competitive swimmers are six times more likely to have dental staining, which has a significant effect on their quality of life.

One hundred swimmers, aged between five and 17 years from four WA swim clubs, took part in the research project, which was completed by a team of three Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) students – Susan Cai, Bryan Huong and Matthew Macdonald.

The DMD is an entry to practice degree to become a dentist, but includes an opportunity to do research, in this case under the supervision of Dr Jilen Patel.

Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their swimming frequency, oral hygiene and external factors, such as diet, which were associated with staining.

“Intra-oral frontal photographs were taken of the incisor and canine teeth,” Dr Patel said. “These were analysed and a Global Stain Index Score was determined, scored by three independent assessors.”

The results were compared against a control group of age-matched non-swimmers, with staining significantly greater in swimmers (82.2 per cent) compared to the control group (44 per cent).

“The results showed greater cumulative time swimming was associated with greater stain intensity and that this staining was unrelated to oral hygiene or factors like diet,” Dr Patel said.

“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 Jilen Patel
Dr Patel said the results would be used to inform parents as well as dentists on the potential staining that could occur among competitive swimmers.

“Further research is focused on understanding the exact causes of the staining whether it be chlorine levels, pool pH or salivary composition,” Dr Patel said.