Lemon Water, Fruit Juice and their Effects on Teeth

A couple of years ago, I decided to switch my first drink of the day from coffee to something a little more gentle. The coffee was proving too harsh on my empty stomach, leaving me with an uncomfortable ‘racy’ feeling. On the internet, I came across numerous health websites describing warm water and lemon as ‘the perfect morning drink’ because of its associated health benefits, including its ability to cleanse our systems, flush out toxins, stimulate digestion, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.

Warm Water and Lemon

 Photo Source: 16 Health Benefits of Drinking Warm Lemon Water

So I made the switch from coffee to warm water with a slice of lemon, and my stomach was thankful …  However, what I didn’t realise until very recently was the damaging effect that this seemingly gentle drink can have on teeth.

About a year ago, M switched his morning drink to warm water and lemon too. Unfortunately, at his latest dental check up, the dentist was shocked by the extent of enamel erosion to his teeth. This damage has only happened in the past twelve months, and the dentist suspected that the culprit was the lemon water!

The dentist explained that the acidity in lemon softens tooth enamel and can cause erosion. If we brush our teeth soon after consuming the drink, the enamel is still soft and can easily erode. This enamel can never be replaced. When it’s worn away, it exposes the underlying dentin (making the teeth look hollow and yellow) and can cause sensitivity and cavities.

M has little time in the morning before he heads to work, so he’s likely to be brushing his teeth within 15 minutes of finishing his breakfast i.e. when the enamel’s still soft from the lemon water :/

The dentist gave us a few tips on how to minimise the risk of enamel erosion from acidic drinks…

  • Don’t brush your teeth for at least half an hour after the drink (many dental websites suggest it’s best to leave an hour before brushing)
  • Rinse your mouth out with water
  • Brush your teeth gently
  • Use a straw to limit the drink’s contact with the teeth
  • Chew sugar-free gum (this stimulates saliva which helps to neutralise the acidity)
  • Drink water frequently during the day to help wash away acid and prevent a dry mouth (as saliva is needed to neutralise the acid)
  • Try to limit acidic drinks to meal times only, to give the mouth a chance to restore to its optimal pH level (the dentist drew a graph to illustrate this point to me, which was helpful indeed!)

Since it has such a severe effect on teeth, M and I have decided to ditch the warm water and lemon altogether, and we now drink a cup of herbal tea instead. To be honest, I’m enjoying this as much as the lemon water, and my stomach has been fine too!

Herbal Tea Health Benefits

Photo Source: Herbal Tea Benefits

While lemon has one of the highest acid contents, it’s worth bearing in mind that other fruit juices and soda drinks are acidic too.

This issue of enamel erosion got me thinking about the amount of fruit juice that Lil’ L drinks. Typically, he’s been drinking a glass of juice with his breakfast, plus a carton of juice with his lunch. After our main meal, we usually make a fruit smoothie too (using whole fruits and non dairy milk/yoghurt).

In addition to the acid, there’s a large amount of fructose in fruit juice too. There’s been a lot in the media lately about the excessive amounts of sugar we’re consuming and how it’s affecting our health. Before, I’d only really been concerned about ‘added sugar’, but too much of any sugar can be harmful to us.

This past week, I’ve made a couple of changes to Lil’ L’s juice consumption:

  • In the morning, he has a glass of orange juice (fortified with calcium) with his breakfast. I make sure he has breakfast at least half an hour before he brushes his teeth.
  • The carton of juice in his lunchbox has been replaced with water. At the moment, he doesn’t like taking fresh fruit to school, so I make sure that his lunch contains vitamin-C rich vegetables instead (like red pepper) to aid the absorption of iron.
  • Fruit smoothies are now drunk with a straw

For now, I’ve been using a plastic straw which I rinse out immediately, but I’m on the lookout for a quality, reusable straw. You can buy reusable straws in so many different materials these days, including glass, stainless steel, silicone and even bamboo!

I’m also planning to get a straw cleaner, so I can make sure the straws are thoroughly cleaned out.

Next on the ‘to find’ list is a good quality, small size, eco-friendly water bottle that fits in his lunch bag and won’t leak. Now that could be a tall order. Any recommendations will be very gratefully received!

18 thoughts on “Lemon Water, Fruit Juice and their Effects on Teeth

  1. Hi Sharon

    I totally agree with you about the lemon juice, I made some at the weekend and my teeth felt awful! I’m not going to be partaking again, despite its health benefits!

    Regarding the smoothies, I think there’s been a lot of negative press just recently and I’m not taking much notice of it though I think it’s a great idea to be careful with children and to limit the amount they drink and using a straw works wonders in preventing the acid smothering the teeth! The straw cleaner is such a fantastic idea isn’t it?

    My eldest only had water for the first 2 years of his life! People thought I was a “cruel” Mum but he escaped dentistry on his teeth throughout his whole childhood!

    Hope you have a great week 🙂

    1. Gosh it’s tough being a mum sometimes! There’s so much conflicting information that it’s really hard to work out what’s best to do. I don’t want to cut out Lil’ L’s juice altogether, but I don’t want to wreck his teeth either. Hopefully I’ve find a middle way now!

  2. Really interesting Sharon. I really like either lemon water or recently I’ve been doing about a tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar in a mug of warm water to start the day. I’ve been doing this for some time and my dentist hasn’t said anything about my tooth enamel…
    I don’t drink fruit juices mainly because of the sugar but also because I prefer to drink herbal teas and water anyway. I think you know I’ve been eating no sugar, sweeteners or fruit for about 6 weeks now to help get my digestive flora back to full health . I think I’m just unlucky that my body can’t handle too much sugar even if it is from fruit. I try and always have protein with fruit when I do have it- almond butter with an apple for example, as I find it keeps my blood sugars more stable. We’re all individuals though and I know some people thrive on lots of fruit.
    Oh, and I always drink smoothies through a straw too. I have a glass straw I bought from here: http://www.afinechoice.co.uk/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=13&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=14
    Hope you’re having a good week x

    1. Hi Emma. I’ve never tried the warm water & ACV myself, but I’ve heard great things about it. I think the same dental advice goes for AVC & lemon water. The main thing is to not brush your teeth soon after as the enamel has been softened by the drink. It might be worth chatting to your dentist about it when you next visit.
      I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been having stomach problems. I hope you’re back to feeling 100% real soon. I suffered with stomach issues all through my 20s so I know what it’s like (the culprit for me was dairy & MSG). It’s such a relief when you work out the culprit so you can do something about it.
      Thank you so much for the link! I’ve always wanted to try a glass straw but all the stockists I’d come across were US based. I’m looking forward to checking out that UK store 🙂

  3. I start every day with hot water and lemon and haven’t had any teeth issues. I usually brush my teeth as soon as I get up though not after breakfast so that probably helps. I need to get a reusable straw! I had a plastic one but I threw it away as it just got gross and I felt I couldn’t clean it properly.

    1. I’m looking forward to making the switch to reusable straws… maybe silicone for Lil’ L and stainless steel or glass for me 🙂 From what I’ve been reading on Amazon, you can use a baby bottle cleaner for straws, which is a really cheap option x

  4. I can’t drop my morning coffee…it is just out of principle(after all…I am Spanish)..But I may say, when I am working long shifts…mainly at night time, I have been having hot water with lemon instead of my usual coffees. I have my appetite back….and I just feel so much better. It has been and instant benefit for me. Good tip to pass on…Thanks Sharon.x

    1. I imagine warm water and lemon would be quite a soothing drink for late night shifts. As you said, it’s great for the tummy (far better than coffee!)
      Years ago, I could barely open my eyes before I had a coffee… now I manage to make it all the way to 9.30 😉

  5. Eeek. I’m slowly disolving my teeth…really helpful this. Good to know when doing what you think is the right thing for your body might be doing damage to something else…

  6. I have read a lot about that too! Even with certain foods! Its so hard to have that time in the mornings though between eating/drinking and waiting an hour before brushing :-/

  7. I love having hot water with lemon during my cleanse especially during the wintery season. I love having cashew milk for breakfast, and sometimes pineapple + banana smoothie during the hot mornings. And it’s very true that citrus fruits can erode the enamel and also may lead to potential cavities due to the sweet fruits and I had the exact issue as well, for the past couple of years – I was told by my dentist to rinse my mouth immediately after eating citrus fruits or anything that has citric acid. Thank you for the helpful tips…I have these awesome vegan straws lying around in the drawers and I need to use them to prevent more enamel erosion!

    1. Hi, ive also stopped drinking lemon water but i must say i really miss it !! It really made me feel great in the morning, i cant eat or drink anything first thing my digestive system is a slow starter ! But drinking lemon water was perfect ! But since ive stopped due to the affect on our enamel my teeth do feel strange ?? Do you all think if i was to get a straw i could try again, i ready drink lots of water !!? Also where can i buy vegan straws what are they made of please .

      1. Hi Kate! I spoke to my dentist again recently about this and he said it was fine drink the lemon water in the morning as long as there’s a gap of at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. The same rule applies when you have a glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal (which he does, as do a lot of people.) My dentist said the worst thing to do is to regularly drink lemon water (or any citric juice) regularly throughout the day as your teeth never recover from the acid attack. One cuppa in the morning is no problem, providing you have that gap before teeth brushing.
        There are lots of reusable straws that you can buy these days. I mention a few in this post (e.g. silicone, glass, bamboo). I guess it comes down to personal taste.
        I hope this helps, but don’t hesitate to get in touch again if you want to ask me anything else xx

  8. Hi! So I have really been looking into this because I love my honey lemon water in the morning. I brush my teeth right when I wake up, and drink the lemon water approx half hour later. Is this just as bad as brushing after? It seems like a simple solution to brush before but maybe it does the same damage?

    1. Hi Cydney. So sorry for such a late reply! I spoke to my dentist about this last week and he said that it’s absolutely fine to brush teeth first thing in the morning and then drink the lemon water. It’s just a case of personal preference whether people brush their teeth before or after breakfast. Personally I’ve always brushed mine after breakfast as I like leaving the house in the morning with freshly brushed teeth. I tried doing it the other way round last week and it just didn’t feel right to me. I guess it’s just what we get used to xx

  9. I had no idea that lemon water was bad for your teeth, it seems so healthy! I’ll be sure now to rinse my mouth with water and to chew sugar free gum after I have an acidic drink. I’ve been drinking a lot of water lately, so I feel that will help with my overall health. Thanks for these tips.

  10. I had an eating disorder for 10 years and eating 3 balanced meals made of whole foods was a huge part of me getting healthy! I lost 30 pounds by eating more and exercising less. (I.e. ditching low-fat foods and diet drinks for whole foods). I love that whole foods is a focus for your blog! Thanks for this amazing article on lemon water! I’ve literally just read about 10 posts on different blogs to understand the ph bit better and you have written the most thorough article. Love this: ” to give the mouth a chance to restore to its optimal pH level “. Sounds like you have a wonderful dentist too. Thanks!

    1. Hey Kelly. It’s great to hear from you! I’m so pleased that you found this article on lemon water useful. Yes, my dentist is really great. He was so patient explaining the answers to my myriad of questions on acidic drinks. When I drink citrus or fruity drinks now, I make sure I always have them at meal times so my teeth get the acidic ‘hit’ all in one go then have time to restore to the right PH balance between meals.
      Whole foods are amazing aren’t they? Like you, I’ve felt so much better since I made the switch. I’m far more in tune with my body now too. It’s all great!

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