Lemons in Water

The Dark Side of Lemon Water: A Case Study

ScottCosmetic Dentistry, Prevention & Wellness

Many health advocates and nutritionists tout the myriad benefits of lemon water, including promoting hydration, supporting weight loss and providing a source of vitamin C. The National Kidney Foundation also notes that the citric acid in lemons may help prevent kidney stones.

But it’s important to read beyond the headlines, as lemon water can be a case of more is not always better.

The dark side of lemon water

The juice of a lemon is about 5-6% citric acid. Over time, exposure to the acid from lemon water can cause meaningful damage to the tooth enamel, even eroding the hard outer layer of the tooth down to the dentin. The dentin is the layer of material directly beneath the enamel which protects the nerves and is the main supporting structure of the tooth.

Erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused most commonly by an acid attack. When this erosion happens, the teeth must be restored in order to protect them. The extent of the damage will dictate the specific type of restoration required. If the erosion is severe, a crown or multiple crowns may be indicated.

While drinking lemon water has some health benefits, take precautions to avoid potentially significant damage to the enamel on your teeth.

5 tips to minimize the effects of lemon water on tooth enamel

  1. Mix the lemon juice with cold water at a half and half ratio.  The cold water lessens the solvency of the lemon so that it does less harm to the enamel.
  2. Use a straw to drink the lemon water and guide it to pass mostly over the teeth, to the back of the mouth.
  3. Rinse your mouth with tap water after drinking lemon water to normalize the saliva and increase the re-mineralization of the enamel.
  4. Brush your teeth about an hour after ingesting the lemon water to reduce the erosive effects of the citric acid. Avoid brushing the teeth right away after drinking lemon water, as the enamel may be in an acid-softened state.
  5. Rinse at night with a fluoridated mouthwash, to assist in re-mineralizing the enamel.
  6. Consider switching to a couple of drops of lemon essential oil to reduce the damaging impact on teeth.

A patient case study: The impact of lemon water

This patient presented with severe damage to his tooth enamel. Based on information which advocated the drinking of lemon juice to activate digestive enzymes, he had been drinking the juice of a whole lemon each morning for three to four years.


Lemon Water Patient Images

As you can see in the photographs, the lemon water caused the erosion of enamel from the surface of his teeth. His teeth needed to be restored with crowns to protect from further breakdown.

Be skeptical about miracle cures

If you’ve been using lemon water and notice some erosion on your teeth, or simply have questions about your dental care, we’re here to help.

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