Sunshine Smiles of Orange County

Does Lemon Juice Affect Tooth Enamel? The Sour Truth That May Save Your Teeth

Lemon juice can affect and dissolve tooth enamel causing cavities and sensitivity, here's why.

When you picture summer, chances are high that visions of lemons pop in there somewhere.  Rightfully so, these tart yet sweet citrus fruits pack a yummy punch in just about any drink or food concoction.  But we are here to remind you not to get too carried away with lemon juice as it truly can affect your tooth enamel and overall tooth sensitivity.  How you ask?  Let's discuss a few details that will hopefully answer all of your lemon questions!  And just a side note - we love lemons around here and certainly consume them responsibly, so we will be sharing five of our favorite lemon recipes at the end of this post for you to enjoy.... Dentist Approved!

Why Do Lemons Make Your Teeth Sensitive?

Sure lemon juice and lemons are a great way to add flavor to your water, but did you know that constant exposure to lemon juice (and juices from other citrus fruits such as limes) can make your teeth sensitive?  Perhaps not right at first, but over time the juice from citrus fruits, especially that of lemons, can damage the outer coating of your teeth called the enamel.  How so you ask?  The juice of lemons has a pH of around 2 which is extremely acidic, for reference, battery acid has a pH of about 1 so you can see how this may effect your teeth.  Have you also heard dentists say to stay away from soda due to its high acidity (and of course sugar content)?  Well believe it or not, most sodas have about the same acidity as lemons.

The critical pH for your teeth can fluctuate due to mineral content in the mouth, but is said to average around 5.5 1. This means that anything below this pH has the ability to dissolve the enamel.  Loss of enamel can then lead towards sensitivity in your teeth as the underneath layer of tooth structure, called dentin, becomes exposed.  Loss of tooth enamel can also lead towards cavities, as the dentin is a much softer substance so bacteria can invade tooth structure much quicker and with little effort.

How To Drink Lemon Water Without Damaging Your Teeth

So now that you know why it is recommended to drink (and eat) lemon juice sparingly, let's now talk about a few tips on how you can still enjoy lemon water without damaging your teeth.

1) Use a small amount - one wedge as opposed to a half or whole lemon.

2) Drink the water through a straw - this will avoid direct contact with the teeth although lowering the pH in your mouth to some degree will be unavoidable.

3) Drink the water at room temperature - as opposed to with ice or with hot water.

Can drinking lemon water effect the health of your teeth and enamel? Tips for protecting your teeth when drinking lemon water.

4) Swish around and/or drink a glass of regular water after to neutralize the pH.  To take it a step further you can even add a teaspoon of baking soda to water and swish with this to rinse the pH in your mouth much quicker.  If you use basking soda we would advise spitting it out after swishing. 

5) Eat cavity preventing foods afterwards - such as cheese, nuts, and seeds which will help cleanse the teeth of adhering acid particles and also help to raise the pH in the mouth.

6) DO NOT BRUSH!  That's right, do not brush directly after drinking something low in pH such as lemon juice as this will rub the acid all over your teeth!

 

Our Favorite Lemon Recipes

Since lemons and other citrus fruits are a great source of not only flavor, but Vitamin C as well, we still enjoy consuming these happy little fruits!  As promised, here are a few of our favorite lemon recipes, be sure to try them out this summer!

Lemon Lasagna - This dessert has layers of lemon Oreos, cream cheese, lemon pudding and Cool Whip... what more could you need?

Lemon Bundt Cake - The classic summer desert for any gathering, you can't go wrong with a bundt cake! And this particular one is not only super moist but also drizzled with a combination of lemon glaze, white chocolate, and lemon cream cheese frosting!

Lemon Tart - With a creamy lemon custard like filing, this tart is delicious plain, or topped with summer berries!

Lemon Bars - How about a lemon classic?  These lemon bars will be a hit at any gathering and no one will even know how super easy they are to make!

Lemon Crackle Cookies - Using fresh lemon juice and zest plus the convenience of boxed cake mix, these cookies are both tasty and simple to whip up!

References

1. Dawes C. What is the critical pH and why does a tooth dissolve in acid? J Can Dent Assoc 2003. Dec;69(11):722-4.

 

Pediatric dentist in Mission Viejo and Orange CountyAuthor

Dr. Mikaeya Kalantari has been a practicing pediatric dentist for over 7 years working in both the children's hospital setting and private practice.  She has had a wealth of experience treating children of all ages, and medical conditions. When it comes to serving children, she feels the importance of communication between the dentist and parent can not be emphasized enough. Dr. Kalantari practices in her family owned dental office in Mission Viejo, California. 

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