You might order your water at lunch with a bright yellow lemon wedge. Perhaps you squeeze a bit of lemon into hot water on a cold day. Maybe you make yourself a lemon water to start your day. These all look like harmless, and even healthy habits, but the truth is that lemon water can have a surprising effect on your pearly whites. You may know that sugary fruit juices and carbonated sodas aren’t dentist-recommended, but some seemingly safe beverages can be even worse. Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our Houston dental team are committed to educating our patients about every aspect of their oral health. The more you know about your smile, the better you can take care of it! In the following blog, we answer the question: “Is lemon water bad for my teeth?”
Elements of Erosion
You may have heard about enamel erosion, and you’re aware it’s bad for you, but you may not know exactly what it means. First, let’s tackle enamel. WebMD explains: “Enamel is the thin outer covering of the tooth. This tough shell is the hardest tissue in the human body.” Your enamel is your tooth’s first, and strongest, defense against debris, bacteria, trauma, and other damage. However, enamel isn’t impenetrable. As WebMDnotes, “tooth erosion happens when acids wear away enamel on teeth.”
Any sort of exposure to acid in your mouth can put your enamel at risk. However, WebMD’s top two listed causes include refreshments: “excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acid)” and “fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid).” While fresh fruit juices may seem healthy and natural, they can endanger your enamel.
So, what happens if your enamel wears down? Well, first of all, generally speaking, once you lose your enamel, it’s gone forever. You can’t bring it back, so your tooth will be permanently weakened. Second of all, since your enamel is such an important defense for your tooth, any damage to this outer shell makes your tooth more vulnerable to a whole host of issues, from cavities to fractures. While Dr. Flanagan can help treat these issues with restorative dentistry like fillings and crowns, prevention is the best medicine! Your enamel is definitely worth safeguarding.
A Lesson in Lemons
Above, we learned that fruit drinks can be even more corrosive than battery acid. As a citrus, lemon is one of the worst culprits when it comes to acid. In fact, a 2009 study in the Journal of Endourology concluded: “among fruits, citric acid is most concentrated in lemons and limes, comprising as much as 8% of the dry fruit weight.” Basically, lemons are loaded with acid.
The same component that gives this fruit its distinctive sour flavor could also be damaging your enamel. According to a 2015 study comparing a variety of beverages and their effects on teeth, “lemon juice showed statistically significant higher erosivity than all other drinks except Sprite and apple juice.” Furthermore, when it came to erosion of dentin (the layer of tooth just below enamel, which could be said to be its second defense), “lemon juice showed statistically significant higher erosivity than all other liquids.”
In short, while it may be tasty, and may have other health benefits, lemon is no friend to your teeth.
Our Lemon Water Tips
Lemon water, of course, is not as detrimental to your enamel as pure lemon juice, but it still unnecessarily exposes your teeth to acid. If you regularly drink lemon water, you could be slowly but surely dissolving your enamel. Based on this data, our number one recommendation is to cut down your lemon water consumption. Sipping your tangy beverage through a straw may also help limit enamel exposure. We also advise you to drink lemon water with food and swish with regular water after drinking it. Although you may be tempted to clean your teeth right away after drinking lemon water, now that you know its effects, don’t. The acid can weaken your enamel, and brushing immediately after this effect could actually hurt your teeth more.
If you’re a lemon water aficionado, Dr. Flanagan can examine your enamel and provide more tips at your next preventive care appointment! Remember, you need to see us at least twice a year for a cleaning and assessment.
Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today
Do you have more questions about enamel erosion? Are you wondering if your favorite drink could be damaging your teeth? Contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Flanagan!