Will drinking lemon water alone damage the tooth’s enamel? The answer is yes and no.
Basically, all colored foods and beverages and all acidic foods and beverages are absorbed by your teeth. The former cause stains because of their color. The latter cause stains because of their potential to wear at the enamel.
When it comes to wear and tear on your tooth enamel, lemon juice has company in the realm of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Anatomy of the Teeth
Believe it or not, tooth enamel actually plays a role in your digestion. That’s right. Once again, it all comes back to digestion.
Enamel is the visible stuff that covers the crown of the tooth. It’s the stuff that makes teeth look white or yellow or gray. Simply, your teeth are made up of four different types of tissue:
The pulp is at the core of your tooth. It’s made up of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. These act to nourish your tooth. The pulp has two parts—the pulp chamber in the crown and the root canal in the stem of your tooth.
Blood vessels and nerves enter the root through a tiny hole in its tip. They travel through the canal into the pulp chamber in the crown.
Dentin is what surrounds the pulp. It’s a tough yellow substance that makes up most of the tooth. It’s tough like a bone.
Enamel is the hardest tissue in the body. It covers the dentin and forms the outermost layer of the crown.
- It’s the enamel that enables the tooth to endure the exercise of chewing.
- The enamel also protects the tooth from harmful bacteria that constantly enter the mouth.
- The enamel changes temperature from hot to cold depending on the temperature of the food or drink you consume.
- Enamel is porous. This is one of its traits that allows color or acid to come in and promote stains.
The outermost layer of the tooth beneath the gum is called cementum. (Teeth are sensitive when dentin is exposed, when the enamel and cementum have worn away.)
Color in food and drink comes from a chemical compound called chromogens. These are basically substances that can turn to a dye. And these pigmented molecules can easily adhere to dental enamel.
Any food or drink that contains tannins (coffee, tea, red wine, pomegranate, citrus, smoked foods, and legumes to name a mouthful) increases the probability of staining by accentuating the chromogens ability to stick to enamel.
One good way to think about it is if it’s something that can leave stains on your clothes or on your couch, it can discolor your teeth as well. Here are some common offenders:
- red wine
- fruit juices
- dyed candy, popsicles, or ices
- dark vinegars and dressings (including tamari)
- turmeric and curry powders
Address your enamel angst with artistry. Don’t make lemon the scapegoat. There are so many factors at play in the health and longevity of your tooth enamel.
So what’s a cuspid to do? Some of this. Some of that. Protect your teeth all the time, in all ways possible. Here are solutions for some of the problems.
Colored soda (diet or regular) instantaneously discolors teeth. The citric acids erode the enamel and deplete calcium levels. The sugars promote tooth decay. The solution is obvious: Don’t drink soda.
Fruit-containing drinks can damage enamel due to their color, their sugars, or their acid content. Drink your smoothie and fresh juices from a straw so that the sugars and colors from the fruit are not in constant contact with the teeth. Your lemon water can also be consumed through a straw, if you so desire.
Dry mouth or low salivary flow can harm tooth enamel. Drink more water. Try green tea and ginger tea. Eat more leafy greens. Add some cayenne to your diet.
Acid reflux disease (GERD) will expose your teeth to more acid, as will any sort of excessive vomiting. Speak to a knowledgeable nutritionist or health care professional who can advise you about the truths of supporting your stomach acid for good digestion.
Coffee and dark-colored teas not only deteriorate tooth enamel because of their color, but also their heat. Add some milk of choice to coffee or tea (coconut milk works great) to both diffuse the color and moderate the temperature. (Remember that tea shouldn’t be made so hot anyway.)
Wine is high in tooth-staining tannins. Rinse your mouth and swish with water to wash away the offenders. Yes, water will do the trick.
Beets and curries contain natural tooth dyes. But just like lemons, you don’t want to ditch these beauties from your diet. Brush your teeth within the hour of consuming these anti-oxidant rich babies. And if you can’t brush, go for the water swish again.
Digestion affects enamel too. If digestion is in any way impaired, it will be challenged in the release of vital minerals that help the teeth to build that protective enamel. Get to the root of it all. Not just the root of your teeth, but the deep root—your digestive organs. A healthy digestive system can promise better nutrient and mineral absorption and utilization.
There are also medications that affect tooth enamel. Aspirin, antihistamines, and asthma meds are big offenders. They can be acidic.
Of course, genetics and environmental factors also play a role in your bright beam. So let lemon off the hook. A healthy and harmless diet and a small dose of protective practices will go a long way toward keeping your grin gleaming.
With a career born of a personal family health crisis, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama takes the idea of food as personalized medicine beyond a clinical practice. Her online programs at ReplenishPDX.com and HolisticNutritionLab.com guide her clients in taking ownership over their health. Info@ReplenishPDX.com