Lemon water may provide health benefits, but what is the damage to your teeth?

In the ever-continuing quest for better health, we have another player in the “what-to-drink-all-day” market…lemon water, cold, warm, or even with honey…taken every day, and sometimes throughout the day. The purported benefits include

  • Gives your immune system a boost. Vitamin C is like our immune system’s jumper cables, and lemon juice is full of it. …
  • Excellent source of potassium. …
  • Aids digestion. …
  • Cleanses your system. …
  • Freshens your breath. …
  • Keeps your skin blemish-free. …
  • Helps you lose weight. …
  • Reduces inflammation……and so on…

Hard to ignore that list, right? So many of our patients tell us that they are starting their day with warm lemon water, sipping on iced lemon water all day, and having hot water with lemon and honey in the evening.  So…what’s wrong with this?

ACID…that’s what. All citrus fruits, due to their acids, can damage your teeth. This is especially true for lemons. They contain high amounts of citric acid that quickly wears away at the enamel of your teeth. And, since you can’t regrow enamel (yet), this hard and protective outer tooth covering should be greatly respected and handled with care. Patients are complaining of increased sensitivity to cold and hot foods, discoloration of their teeth, and even “thinning” of their teeth, all of which may be due to increased consumption of lemon juice.  Also, we are seeing more patients with crowns and fillings showing breakdown of the bonding that seals out bacteria…requiring replacement of fillings and crowns much more often (think 2-3 years instead of 8-10 years or more!) than should be needed.

If you still want to drink lemon water for the health benefits…don’t brush right away! This will only rub the acids into the teeth, furthering the damage.  Instead, make sure you swish your mouth vigorously with plain warm water immediately after drinking anything containing lemon juice, wait at least 30 minutes for any remaining acids to neutralize, then brush and floss and rinse well again. While this won’t completely prevent any destruction from the acids, it will help to minimize this problem.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer.