How to drink water with lemon and preserve your tooth enamel

I recently became aware that one of my healthy habits was having a deleterious effect on my teeth, so I did some online research and am posting this to help others make healthier choices.

Benefits of drinking water with lemon

Drinking water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it is touted as a very beneficial health practice. I googled “water with lemon” and found these top links (and many more):

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 10.53.21 AMIn short, water with lemon aids digestion, provides nutrients (Vitamin C, citric acid, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and pectin), boosts your immune system, strengthens liver functions, dissolves gallstones, provides antioxidants that nourish the skin, reduces inflammation, reduces hunger cravings, freshens breath, flushes toxins by increasing urination, reduces mucus, maintains a healthy alkaline pH once metabolized, is anti-bacterial to pathogens, reduces joint pain, and more.

Who wouldn’t want those benefits?

But…the acid in lemon juice erodes tooth enamel

Enamel is the hard covering that protects your teeth. It’s the strongest substance in the human body. When your enamel erodes, your teeth become sensitive and more prone to cavities. They also become yellower and may eventually appear hollowed. If that happens, you’ll need some serious and expensive dentistry.

Lemon and lime juice are the most acidic fruit juices of all, with a pH of 2 to 2.6.

Other fruit juices are also acidic (especially cranberry, orange, grapefruit, and pineapple), as well as vegetable juices (especially tomato), as are sodas, sports drinks, and some wines.

Here’s a list of beverages sorted by pH. The site says that any drink with a pH under 5.5 can erode tooth enamel.

Also, if you’re reading this blog, you might be drinking cultured or fermented beverages such as kombucha, KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink, and/or Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar Drink, none of which are listed on the above link.

Wikipedia says the pH of kombucha is between 2.5  and 4.6.

I couldn’t find pH information on KeVita. I prefer the plain coconut version that’s most similar to fermented coconut water, which I used to make myself when I had more time. If anyone knows, please share.

Update: Plain raw apple cider vinegar has a pH of 3.075. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar Drink (pH unknown) is diluted with water, so it is probably fine.

How to drink acidic drinks and preserve your tooth enamel

The health benefits of drinking water with lemon are numerous. So what can you do to preserve your tooth enamel? Here are some choices:

(1) Consider how much lemon juice you are adding to your water. One site says use the juice of half a lemon if you weigh under 150 lbs., and a whole lemon if you weigh more. You could certainly use less than that. A quarter or an eighth of a lemon will still give you some health benefits. More is not necessarily better, in this case.

(2) Also consider the amount of water. I couldn’t find any data on this, but obviously the more diluted the lemon juice is, the better for your tooth enamel. Consider drinking 8 or 12 ounces of water with lemon juice rather than 4. Definitely don’t drink it neat!

(3) Use a straw, which will bring the acidic liquid more toward the back of your mouth away from your teeth. This also applies to juices you make at home or buy and other beverages below 5.5 in pH. If they don’t come with a straw, get one and use it. (Please avoid plastic straws. Paper straws can be composted. Stainless steel straws can be reused. There’s way too much plastic in the world. Please!)

(4) After you finish drinking your glass of lemon water, rinse your mouth with plain water and spit it out to help normalize your saliva. Saliva contains calcium and phosphates that offset the demineralization that occurs from consuming acidic food and drink. Normalizing your saliva helps remineralize your tooth enamel while it’s still soft from the acid.

(5) You can eat foods that neutralize the acid, like dairy (if you tolerate it), right after consuming your lemon water. There’s chance that some of the minerals in the dairy will be absorbed into your weakened enamel. This is pure speculation on my part, but if dairy products are part of your diet, you might consider eating some plain yogurt immediately after drinking your water with lemon. It couldn’t hurt.

(6) Very important! Do not brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after drinking water with lemon or any acidic beverage. Brushing and abrasive substances in your toothpaste can thin the softened enamel, so wait an hour, then use a soft brush and brush gently. Or use a Waterpik on a low setting (1-2).

Using fluoride is controversial. Although classified as a neurotoxin, it does strengthen teeth and reduce sensitivity, so use a fluoride toothpaste if you feel okay with it. I personally avoid it. 

(7) Even better: brush your teeth before you drink your lemon water. But wait a few minutes after brushing before drinking it. A healthy mouth quickly creates a layer of pellicle on the teeth for protection after you brush. Allow the pellicle to work for you by creating a barrier on the enamel against acids.

*I was curious about why some sites say warm or hot water is best with lemon juice. Also, some say to drink lemon water first thing in the morning. These specifications come from Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. One site says: 

The Ayurvedic philosophy believes the first item you ingest sets the mood for the remainder of the day. With that thought in mind, drink a glass of lukewarm water flavored with a fresh slice of lemon or lime. Here, the Ayurvedic reasoning is twofold. The warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis—the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Secondly, lemons and limes are high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.

Next step: rebuilding tooth enamel

So I’m learning. I don’t want to lose any more enamel. My teeth are sensitive enough as it is. I’d like to rebuild my enamel, and to that end I’m following the Weston A. Price Foundation dietary recommendations to remineralize my teeth.

Weston A. Price, a brilliant dentist and researcher, wrote a book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, about the relationship between diet and health. Several books explore his dietary recommendations (more shown on my Products page):

Read the updates: This was originally posted in January 2014. It’s now June 2016, and I just posted an update on my dental health, Rebuilding Tooth Enamel After Drinking Water with Lemon. Good news! My teeth are less sensitive now, and I’ve improved my gum health! Click the link to find out how.

A January 2017 post, Healing a Deep Dental Pocket, explores how to do just that.

I’d love to hear your story about tooth enamel and changing your diet and daily practices.

Other related blog posts:

If you like this blog, please consider checking out my Products I Recommend page, with recommendations for self-care tools, supplements, and books that promote well-being.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!

39 thoughts on “How to drink water with lemon and preserve your tooth enamel

  1. Pingback: Drinking water | Find Me A Cure

  2. Pingback: Lemon/Lime Water: Why It Should Be In Your Daily Routine. | Get your Sizzelle on!

  3. Thanks for this informative article. I would like to know if I can have green tea with lemon juice, first thing in the morning, instead of regular lemon water?

  4. I may have been doing everything wrong with my daily lemon water habit that I just started a few days ago, but I will correct all of them right away after reading this blog entry. This is very helpful. Thank you very much!!!!

    • The vitamin C in lemon juice is actually excellent for gum health as it prevents inflammation. Other foods high in vitamin C include broccoli, strawberries, papaya, and other citrus fruits. Some people have taken megadoses of Vitamin C supplements to heal gingivitis. Good luck!

    • I looked for a definitive source. Bragg’s, the maker of organic raw apple cider vinegar, says its pH is 3.075. So it’s close to lemons and limes and should be treated the same for preserving tooth enamel.

    • There’s some confusion over this issue. Lemon and lime, outside the body, are both extremely acidic. Anything below a pH of 7 is acidic. Battery acid has a pH of 1, stomach acid a pH of 2.0, so lemon juice (2.0-2.6) and lime juice (2.0-2.4) are very acidic.

      Some sources say that once the lemon or lime juice has been fully metabolized (i.e., gone through the digestive process), it acts to alkalize the body. But when you drink water with lemon or lime, it has not been fully metabolized, and the acid can damage your tooth enamel. Here’s an explanation from an holistic health site, but it doesn’t explain in detail how metabolized lemon or lime juice works to alkalize the body.

      This may be a myth, or there may be something to it that science hasn’t caught up with yet. I don’t know.

      Here’s another post from a chemistry blog. The note at the bottom refers to a study that found that drinking lemon juice increased urinary pH from 6.7 to 6.9, which is a very small increase in alkalinity, but it is still acidic (less than 7.0).

      If anyone finds a good explanation that’s been scientifically vetted, please add to the comments! I’ve heard this for years and am curious too.

      • Very nice article!Can honey be added to the recipe of hot water and lemon?

      • Yes, you can add honey, especially if you can get raw, local honey to obtain the most nutrients and immune system benefits. Honey is a form of sugar, so if your blood sugar runs high, you would want to avoid it. If you prefer a sweetener with no effect on your blood sugar, try stevia (liquid or powder). The taste has come a long way over the years to where it is indistinguishable from white sugar.

        Thanks for commenting!

  5. I hear bone broth can heal your teeth (enamel and cavities) it’s also full of beneficial vitamins and minerals. I think it would be a great supplement to a lemon water drinker. ..

  6. Thanks for the info and the time consuming research to provide it. I usually cut a large lemon into 16ths to drink with my water. I drink about 20 ounces at least three times and sometimes 4 times per day. Feeling great!

  7. Hi,I have been drinking lemon juice and warm water four times daily for the past three years and I feel great! Only several months ago several teeth in the front of the mouth have been getting sesisitive. It probably is the lemon juice intake. All that I have read has been very helpful. I do not want to stop drinking Lemon Juice and your experiences have been helpfull I will start by using the straw and drinking bone juice. I will keep you abreast of my progress thanks a mill Seb

  8. Thanks for this article. I hate water, but as of last week I started keeping a gallon jug with a dispenser on it of lemon water in the fridge. Since I started drinking it every morning I cannot get enough water and I love it so much.

    However, my tooth started killing me a few days ago. Looking on the internet for possible remedies (no signs of infection or inflammation, my teeth look good). I could not feel a root hurting, I was dumbfounded. Until I got my last glass of lemon water 15 min ago, took a swig and was like OH THIS IS ACID on my tooth. That same tooth had been sensitive to cold for a very long time but never any bother; but now it hurts. Thank to your article, I will try to have yogurt and warm lemon water and see if this helps.

  9. I was bulimic for 10 years. Side note, I’ve been healthy for 17 years. Yay! Recently I had a root canal due to damage from my eating disorder – I always brushed my teeth after I was sick. Unfortunately the damage is done but that makes me more determined to help prevent other people from having the same experience—whether from bulimia or drinking lemon juice. Now I drink lemon juice in the morning and always rinse with water after. And by the way, you can overcome bulimia! Thanks for this thorough and well-written article.

  10. Pingback: Why I Gave Up the Bottle {of Lemon Juice} - Beautiful Foods

  11. What about if you mix baking soda with the lemon water….would this neutralize the acid in the lemon and stop it from damaging your teeth? Any help greatly appreciated.

  12. Drinking lots of water throughout the day is good to prevent kidney stones, and they say it works even better with lemon juice in it. So when drinking water consistently all day with lemon juice, even if a straw is used, won’t there still be residual lemon/acid continually bathing at least some of the teeth, eroding the enamel? Is there a way around this? Thanks

  13. I have helped strengthen my teeth and stopped them from being so sensitive by taking coral calcium powder. I put a little cc powder in my mouth, then take a sip of water and hold both in my mouth for several minutes, the longer the better. I do it every day. It even helps them look whiter. I get the cc powder from Coral calcium LLC.

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