These days, many more people are taking lemon juice in warm water, in tea, or steeped in cucumber and mint leaves over night. Lemon is said to aid digestion, provide nutrients (such as Vitamin C, citric acid, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and pectin), boost your immune system, strengthen liver functions, dissolve gallstones, reduce inflammation, reduce hunger cravings, freshen breath, reduce joint pain, reduce weight, and more.
These benefits sound amazing right? However, you must also know that the acid in lemon juice can cause tooth erosion. Tooth erosion is the wearing away of the tooth enamel by acid either from our diet or the stomach itself (for example in those who suffer from medical conditions like acid reflux or bulimia). The enamel is the hard outer layer that protects your teeth. When enamel erodes, the teeth become weak, the sensitive and more prone to decay. They also become yellower and erosion can eventually lead to tooth loss. All these may require some extensive dental work.
Does this mean that you have to stop drinking lemon water? No! However there are precautionary measures that you can take against tooth erosion.
1. Avoid excess or consistent intake of lemon or lime. Just a small quantity would do. It is not a magic portion.
2. After drinking the acidic lemon drink, rinse your mouth with water immediately. This will wash the acid away from the oral cavity and will help to return the normal pH balance in the saliva.
3. Do not brush your teeth straight after drinking lemon water. It is recommended that you allow your teeth to re-mineralize for at least 30 minutes before brushing. Brushing your teeth whilst under an acid attack will erode teeth even faster due to chemical wear from the acid softening the enamel, in conjunction with mechanical wear from brushing.
4. Chew sugar free gum after drinking lemon water. This will increase salivation which neutralizes the acidic environment in your mouth.
5. Always use a soft bristle toothbrush. While brushing, take a gentle approach, pointing the brush head at a 45-degree angle towards the gum line and massage carefully from tooth to tooth.
6. You should also avoid swishing such drinks around your mouth and rather opt for a straw, in order to reduce contact time with the teeth.
7. Use a fluoridated toothpaste morning and evening to help strengthen the enamel.
8. If you already have enamel erosion and would like to hear further options, you can book a consultation with us at Nene Dental Clinic.
Dr. Olatunde Asagba is an alumna of the dental school at the prestigious University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is passionate about public health issues and is actively involved in expanding healthcare access through telemedicine.