Ask The Dentist: The citric acid in lemon water will leave its mark on your teeth

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says acids and teeth don't mix – no matter what the latest health trends say

Teeth are designed for water – try it neat, rather than with lemon
Lucy Stock

TOOTH vanity in the 1600s came in the form of visiting the local barber-surgeons who handled teeth cleaning by using toothpicks and bits of rags. After scraping the tartar away, the barbers would give the teeth an extra sparkle by bathing them in aqua fortis.

This magical whitening solution was indeed strong water that contained nitric acid. The solution worked wonderfully at whitening the teeth initially; however, due to its acidic nature it eventually corroded all the enamel off the teeth, causing irreparable damage and leaving the teeth looking yellow.

After a while the relationship between the aqua fortis and the tooth damage was made and the practice died out.

Well today a similar practice is occurring which is a widespread and increasingly popular. In 2017 we are drinking glassfuls of citric acid although not for the direct benefit of our teeth but for our general health. The citric acid is being heated up in hot water and sipped, which unwittingly is leading to even greater damage.

The citric acid is, not unexpectedly, lemon in water that is being championed as a health drink.

Teeth are perfectly designed and shaped in every way. The shape of teeth has nothing to do with appearance even though we humans have ideas of beauty.

We need the teeth to be a certain shape so that they fit together like a jigsaw. Frequently drinking lemon water dissolves teeth. If the enamel is eroded the tooth thins and rounds off and this jigsaw fit is lost. This means that the teeth can no longer bite evenly or slide around harmoniously.

When all the enamel and all the teeth are present our teeth slide around in smooth waltz-like movements but when the teeth are eroded it's more like they are dad dancing and bumping into each other. This can lead to teeth chipping, crowns being knocked out, roots splitting and joint pain.

These consequences of lemon water are avoidable. It's not that you can never drink lemon water again, it's just that we need to be mindful of the frequency of taking it.

As a general rule of thumb, lemon water every day tends to leave its mark. Try cutting down how often you have it to maximize the strength of your teeth. The teeth are designed for water – I know I'm a party pooper but I didn't make up the rules!

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