A healthy lifestyle not only means eating well, but also exercising regularly and replacing your soft drinks with water or tea -- and perhaps a wedge of lemon for taste. But unfortunately, lemons can create a sour experience for your teeth.
Drinking lemon juice can put you at risk for tooth erosion, a condition where the thin, protective layer of enamel slowly wears away from your teeth. Lemon juice contains acid, which irritates gums and softens tooth enamel.
Frequent consumption of products that contain acid will eventually destroy the enamel and expose underlying dentin, leaving your teeth vulnerable to sensitivity and tooth decay. In fact, enamel erosion is one of the most common causes of cavities and tooth loss.
The Bad Seed
With a high acid content, lemon juice is one of the most erosive materials you can consume. But lemons aren't the only bad apples! Any acidic food or drink can contribute to enamel dental erosion, and you should be aware of how much acid you're consuming on a daily basis. Some of the foods and beverages that cause enamel erosion include:
- Other fruit juices: orange, apple and grapefruit juice
- Fruits and vegetables: citrus, tomatoes and pickles
- White wine
- Sports drinks
Those who suffer from bulimia or acid reflux disease also have a high potential of developing dental erosion. The stomach acid used to digest food is strong enough to dissolve the enamel on your teeth. Frequent vomiting puts your teeth in regular contact with stomach acid, and puts you at risk for dental erosion. Heartburn, belching or a sour taste in your mouth are also signs that stomach acid may be escaping into your oral cavity. If you suffer from bulimia, get help. Stomach acid is powerful enough to destroy your teeth, and your condition can lead to a plethora of other physical problems.
Lemon-Aid Your Habit
If you can't go without your daily coffee or other acidic items, there are some ways to ward off impending dental erosion. Drinking acidic beverages through a straw will limit the liquid's contact with teeth. Drinking water frequently throughout the day will help wash away acid and prevent dry mouth, as saliva is needed to neutralize acid.
Once you're done eating, don't brush your teeth immediately afterwards. It sounds odd, but the abrasive materials in toothpaste can further damage tooth enamel weakened by acid. Instead, try washing your mouth out with water, eating cheese or drinking milk to neutralize the acid. Consuming dairy products after acidic foods or drinks also can reduce the possibility of dental erosion. In the meantime, wait at least an hour to brush, and use a fluoride toothpaste to protect your teeth and reduce sensitivity.
The Balancing Act
Of course, you may need the nutrients and vitamins found in some acidic foods and drinks. When creating a meal plan, don't rule out foods that are good for you, but do take your dental health into consideration. Eat a well-balanced diet and visit your dentist regularly to check for signs of dental erosion. Once enamel is lost, it never grows back, so take the steps necessary to preserve your enamel for a lifetime of healthy, strong teeth.
When life gives you lemons, be sure to protect your dental health. If you have any questions regarding how you can get the best out of your diet without affecting your dental health, speak with your dentist. If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one!