Here is a common dental question people ask me:
I drink hot water with raw lemon every single morning, but I heard from a dentist that it's terrible for the enamel. Is this true? Is there anything I can do to protect my teeth but still drink it? Does water temperature make a difference?
Here's my answer:
Many health and fitness enthusiasts drink hot lemon water upon waking to cleanse the system, stimulate digestive enzymes and possibly even assist with weight loss.
What is erosion? Erosion is the loss of tooth enamel, caused by acid attack. When the enamel is worn away, it exposes the underlying dentin (which is yellower in colour than enamel), which may lead to painful sensitivity.
Acidic foods and drinks can cause enamel erosion. Lemon juice is highly acidic (citric acid), so over time, routine consumption of lemon juice will erode your enamel. Not only is erosion unsightly (it makes the teeth appear hollowed and yellowed), but as previously stated, it may also make your teeth sensitive to hot and cold food.
The temperature of your hot water does make a difference! Since the rate of chemical reactions increases with temperature, erosion will be more severe at higher temperatures.
I recommend diluting the lemon juice with a full 8 ounces of water to lessen the acidity. You can further minimize risk by drinking the warm lemon juice through a straw (so it bypasses your teeth). If you elect to use a straw, be careful not to burn your palate (always test the temperature of the water with your finger before using a straw). After drinking the acidic lemon water, rinse your mouth with water immediately. Another option is to chew sugar-free gum after drinking the lemon water: this helps you produce more saliva, which helps neutralize the acidity in your mouth. DO NOT brush your teeth until 60 minutes after drinking the lemon water. Use a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste (fluoride strengthens your teeth) and do not brush aggressively. Why? Because acid leaves the enamel softened and more prone to erosion during brushing!
If you already have enamel erosion, then consult with your dentist. Your dentist may recommend treatments such as resin bonding, veneers or sealants to protect your remaining tooth structure, restore aesthetics and/or minimize sensitivity. Consider trying toothpastes that protect against enamel erosion and reduce tooth sensitivity.
Dr. Sara Solomon