Lemon water has taken off as the wellness community’s most popular life-hack beverage. Hailed for its antioxidants, skin benefits, and even as a weight loss aid, lemon water is touted as the latest cure-all. Are there legitimate benefits to drinking lemon water? Yes! Citrus contains antioxidants, powerful free-radical scrubbing compounds that can reduce the risk of many health conditions, and yes, help repair your skin. Likewise, citrus flavonoids have been shown to reduce inflammation, leading to positive associations with cardiovascular health. Seeking these health benefits, an increasing number of people have been drinking lemon water daily.
But did you know that enjoying your morning glass of lemon water could be wreaking havoc on your teeth?
What happens in your mouth when you drink lemon water?
Why does your mouth pucker when you bite into a lemon? Sour food & drink is highly acidic and your brain negatively reacts to this acidity, puckering and salivating the mouth. This is your body’s natural defense mechanism against a potentially harmful substance. While consuming citrus does have health benefits, it’s best enjoyed in moderation.
- Teeth, in particular, are vulnerable to the eroding effects of acidic substances. Prolonged exposure to acidic food & drink will permanently damage your tooth enamel. Enamel erosion can be painful and damaging to your smile. While there are treatments that prevent further damage and can save your smile, the damage done to your enamel is irreversible.
- Additionally, citric acid irritates the soft tissues on the inside of your mouth. Extended exposure can aggravate or even cause canker sores inside your mouth. While not life-threatening, these sores tend to be painful and uncomfortable. If you have or are prone to mouth sores you should avoid unnecessary exposure to citric acid.
Eroding enamel can be difficult to detect before it’s too late. The symptom most people first detect is an increased sensitivity to hot and cold fluids. Your tooth’s roots are covered by a very thin piece of enamel. Once exposed, these roots become very sensitive to temperature. If your teeth are suddenly sensitive to temperature changes you may have damaged your enamel.
Discoloration of the teeth is the next most frequently noticed symptom. If your enamel is significantly degraded your tooth’s biting edges will begin to appear more translucent, almost see-through. Following translucency, your teeth will start to appear more yellowish. This is because the enamel that coats your teeth is whiter in color than the underlying dentine beneath. Once the layer of enamel has degraded it exposes the underlying yellowish dentin layer, giving your smile a yellowish hue.
Finally, a damaged enamel may begin to change the shape of your teeth! If you notice your teeth have rounded edges, widened gaps, or ridges where there previously were none, you may have damaged your enamel. Contact your dentist if you suspect that you may have damaged tooth enamel.
3 Easy Ways to Limit the Damage of Lemon Water
Love lemon water but concerned about the side effects? Dr. Janna Koning’s top 3 tips for reducing acidic fluid erosion will help you.
- Drink lemon water through a straw! Position your straw to bypass your teeth when consuming lemon water. This will minimize the fluid’s contact with your teeth, reducing your risk for enamel erosion.
- Wash your mouth out after drinking lemon water. A quick water rinse helps to remove lingering acid on your teeth, reducing your enamel’s exposure to the acidic fluid.
- Wait to brush your teeth! While this may seem counterintuitive, brushing your teeth immediately after will spread and embed the acidic fluid, making things worse. Try to wait at least an hour after drinking lemon water to brush your teeth.
Where does lemon water rank among the sugar frees?
If you’ve ditched the enamel destroying cola, sports drinks, and sweetened waters then you’re on the right path. But, as we now know, a non-sugar beverage’s acid content or pH level also has a substantial impact on your oral health. So what sugar-free flavored beverages are the best for oral health?
- Lemon Water: Water does dilute the pH of Lemon juice, but not by much. Assuming an average glass and amount of lemon juice, the pH Lies somewhere between 2 and 3.5. Lemon water won’t stain your teeth, but prolonged exposure to its high acidity can do significant damage to your tooth enamel, and even cause or irritate oral sores.
- Carbonated Water: The average pH of carbonated water is ~4.5, depending on if it’s flavored with citrus or not. The best carbonated waters for your teeth are mineral added, with pH levels closer to 6. Overall, while carbonated water may be doing some damage to your teeth, it is mostly insignificant. For optimal oral health choose carbonated waters with minerals added.
- Coffee: With a pH of 5, Coffee’s acidity is not a major concern for your oral health. However, its powerful colorants will leave stains on your teeth. Want that morning boost but can’t give up your pearly whites? It might be time to switch to espresso. Drinking less liquid over a shorter period of time will expose your teeth to less staining.
- Cucumber water: Looking for a pH neutral, sugar-free, stain-free, alternative to plain water? Look no further than cucumber water! A great alternative to lemon water, cucumber water contains minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins, all while preserving your oral health!
- Green Tea: Green tea boasts a litany of health benefits, rivaling or exceeding those of lemon water. With an average pH of 8, green tea is alkaline! Its alkalinity helps your tooth enamel balance the acidity that it so often encounters. Multiple studies have concluded that regular consumption of unsweetened green tea will help protect against cavities and tooth erosion. Naturally, the tannins present in green tea can stain your teeth a grayish color if regularly consumed. However, these stains are fairly subtle and can be avoided with proper oral hygiene.
So what beverage do we recommend for optimal oral health?
You can’t go wrong with plain water! For a flavorful boost, cucumber and sparkling waters are both delicious and smile-happy alternatives. Enjoy lemon water less often for optimal oral health. For a morning caffeine boost, unsweetened green tea or espresso is the best choice!