The Truth About Citrus And Your Tooth Enamel

Drinking lemon water, and citrus fruits in general, is a healthy habit. Lemons and other citrus fruits are packed with nutrients and other compounds such as phytochemicals which have multiple benefits for human health.

But, you may have also heard that citrus and other acidic fruits can damage tooth enamel.

The question: What’s the truth – and the solution?

Citrus fruits

It’s virtually always true that anything you consume in excess ends up doing some harm. Over exposure to citric acids, over time, can weaken the tooth enamel (the outer layer). Does that mean you should cut out these nutritious fruits?

Of course not. There are common sense ways to minimize and even eliminate the risk.

  • Dilute: you may enjoy the strong tang of a half/half lemon juice and water split, but you’ll get the same nutritional benefits simply by adding more water.
  • Cold water: use cold water rather than hot for your lemon water – it delivers the lemon juice to your insides, away from your teeth.
  • Use a straw: it will keep contact between your teeth and the liquid to an absolute minimum.
  • Rinse: have a drink of water directly after exposure to citric acids to help your mouth eliminate the acids.

Remineralize Your Teeth

Did you know that your teeth can remineralize themselves? They do it all the time – in fact, that’s the idea behind fluoride toothpaste. Here are some tips to help you keep your tooth enamel strong as you enjoy lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits.

  • Use an enamel-building toothpaste, and wait 30 to 60 minutes after exposure to acids to brush. If your tooth enamel is softened, the brush bristles can also scratch the surface. Waiting lets the pH neutralize in your mouth, and the enamel rehardens.
  • Chew sugarless gum to activate saliva production. Saliva helps to neutralize the acids in your mouth.

Teeth are able to remineralize when calcium and other minerals are present in the saliva. They bond with tooth enamel, and can restore its strength. You can help the process with a mineral-rich diet.

  • Have a glass of milk or eat some cheese after your lemon water or orange salad. One study found that eating calcium-rich varieties of cheese counteracts the effects of sugar, which are also based on acidity.
  • Some research also suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can guard against damage to tooth enamel.
  • Drink lots of water – it helps to stabilize the pH of your saliva.

The answer: It’s entirely possible to enjoy citrus fruits AND protect your teeth.

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