Lemon water is pretty simple—it’s basically plain water that’s been infused with fresh lemon juice and a few optional ice cubes—but there's no denying that it can be exceedingly delicious in the summertime (or after a sweaty workout), as it gives basic water a wow-worthy flavor boost.
Many of us turn to lemon water as an effort-free way to boost our hydration intake first thing in the morning or throughout the day. A squeeze of juice and a hint of zest can make drinking water so much more appealing, no? This is doubly true for those of us who find a glass of standard tap to be a bit bland on its own—and therefore struggle to maintain enough fluid to satisfy our body’s daily needs. IMHO, it’s pretty hard to find an excuse not to guzzle water all day when you’ve got a delicious ice cold pitcher of lemon water in the fridge calling your name.
How does lemon water impact teeth, gums, and overall dental health?
1. Lemon water can boost saliva production and freshen breath
The key benefit of lemon water is both the simplest but also the most important. As mentioned, its appealing flavor (and lack of sugar or caffeine) can help with hydration, and our bodies cannot function at their best without sufficient fluid intake—mouth included. “Hydration is key for good salivary production, and the most protective natural remedy of tooth decay happens to be a well-hydrated mouth,” says Beverly Hills-based dentist, Rhonda Kalasho, DDS and CEO of TruGlo Modern Dental. "And since lemon is acidic by nature, it has natural antiseptic qualities. This means it helps to kill some bacteria in the mouth, which naturally helps to get rid of stink and freshen breath."
2. The acidity of lemon water may soften the enamel on your teeth, which can lead to yellowing, cavities, and sensitivity in teeth and gums
However, according to Dr. Kalasho, there are also some drawbacks of drinking lemon water when it comes to oral hygiene. "Lemon water's acidity can be damaging to your teeth, gums, and enamel in the long-term, unless you implement a few simple steps to reduce damage and protect your teeth from erosion, decay, or yellowing," she says.
To get more specific, lemon water can soften the enamel on your teeth over time when consumed consistently. "This is because anything acidic in your diet demineralizes your teeth, which is what's causing the enamel to soften," says dentist Sharon Huang, DDS, MICOI and Founder of Les Belles NYC. She says that the same goes for other acidic foods and beverages: Coffee, tomato-based sauces, wine, and so on.
Once enamel becomes overly softened, Dr. Huang says that it can cause your teeth to yellow, as well as increase your risk of developing cavities and experiencing sensitivity in teeth and gums. "Drinking through a straw once you're finished with your lemon water will help preserve the enamel on your pearly whites. When you sip through a straw, the acidic beverage partially bypasses your teeth, which helps prevent the acidity from causing erosion on your enamel," Dr. Huang recommends. "And then immediately rinse your mouth with water once finished."
3. Lemon water's acidity can increase your risk of tooth erosion, but this is only in extreme cases
Studies have shown that highly acidic beverages can lead to dental erosion, but this is only in extreme cases. “Tooth enamel is made of hydroxapetite, which is a crystalline structure that can easily be broken down by an acid, and when enamel is broken down it becomes more porous, and thus soft and brittle, which may lead to breakage or erosion,” Dr. Kalasho says.
According to Dr. Huang, anything with a pH value lower than five and a half can damage your oral health. "And lemon juice has a pH value between two and three, which means it is extremely acidic,” she says. “You can’t reverse the damage, unfortunately, as the body can’t regenerate enamel."
How to prevent lemon water from damaging your pearly whites
All of this being saidi, if you're drinking lemon water on occasion, both dentists affirm that none of this information is anything to lose sleep over. It's more important for those who sip it all day long or don't sufficiently dilute their beverage.
“It is possible, but very rare, that you’d see holes or chips in the teeth from drinking lemon water," says Dr. Kalasho. "The exception is if you are drinking lemon water that is barely diluted—meaning a high lemon juice to H2O ratio—extremely frequently, sucking on lemons, or bathing your teeth in lemon water all the time. Straight lemon on the teeth daily is a lot more harmful than lemon water." This is why Dr. Kalasho recommends simply mixing more water—"at least eight ounces," she says—with less lemon juice to help counteract any negative impacts on your enamel.
Additionally, remember Dr. Huang's tip about enlisting a straw and rinsing your mouth out with water after you finish your glass of lemon-infused H2O to prevent the beverage from softening the enamel on your teeth.
However, while rinsing right after you sip is great, Dr. Huang says to avoid brushing. “You should wait at least 30 minutes after drinking lemon water before brushing your teeth in order to give your mouth enough time to make a sufficient amount of saliva in order to counteract demineralization in your teeth,” she says. Otherwise, the brushing motion and the bristles in your toothbrush will be too abrasive for your teeth after being exposed to lemon water. Dr. Huang also recommends not skimping on flossing and brushing twice daily maintain ideal oral hygiene.
Lastly, you can try using a water flosser, as they’re excellent oral hygiene tools that clean off food deposits on the teeth and help neutralize remaining acids, which may be stuck in between teeth or around the gums. Using high pressure water will be most effective, advises Dr. Huang.
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