Citrus and Your Teeth: What You Need to Know

citrus and teeth

There’s nothing quite like slicing into a juicy lemon or drinking a cold glass of orange juice with breakfast. Citrus fruits add flavor and tang to some of the best recipes from strawberry lemonade to lemon curd to even salad dressings. We probably don’t think twice about how that orange juice might affect our teeth, but citrus fruits can and do cause problems for teeth.

Benefits of citrus

Citrus fruits are a family of fruits that include lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, and all of the various types of oranges. Citrus fruits are particularly common during cold and flu season as they are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, but there are other benefits of including citrus into your diet:

  • High in fiber
  • Heart healthy: Studies show that citrus is high in flavonoids, which is a plus when it comes to heart health. Other studies show that citrus can help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Low glycemic index: A piece of citrus fruit, especially a grapefruit, won’t cause a spike in your sugar levels.
  • Citrus helps your body absorb other vitamins and minerals (like iron) better
  • Good for weight loss
  • Good for healthy skin: Vitamin C improves collagen production.

How does citrus affect my teeth?

With all of those benefits, it’s hard to imagine that a piece of citrus could be bad for you! However, citrus fruit, while great for your body, can cause a few issues with your teeth:

  • Problems with enamel: Over time, citrus fruits can start to erode the enamel of teeth due to the high acidity of citrus fruits. Eroding enamel can cause other problems like increased risk of stains and sensitivity.
  • Tooth sensitivity: Some patients find that citrus fruits, especially lemons, can cause mild to extreme tooth sensitivity.

I love citrus fruits. Now what?

Citrus fruit offers so many health benefits; it would be a shame to avoid it all together. Luckily, these juicy fruits can still have a place in your diet.

  • Assess the acidity level: Not all citrus fruits have the same pH level. Understanding the pH level can help determine which fruits are the most acidic; the lower the number, the more acidic the fruit is. Lemons, for instance, have a pH level of around 2, while oranges have a pH level of 3.69-4.34. If tooth sensitivity is a big issue for you, stick with fruits that are less acidic.
  • Eat cheese with fruit: The perfect combo – cheese raises the pH of your mouth, which helps to neutralize all of the acids.
  • Use a straw when drinking fruit juice: This helps reduce the contact of juice/acid with the surface of your teeth.
  • Use toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth
  • Rinse your mouth with water after eating a citrus fruit to rinse the acid out of your mouth
  • Brush and floss and eating citrus fruit: Colgate recommends waiting at least 30 minutes after rinsing with water before brushing your teeth.

Still having problems with sensitivity?

If you have questions about eating citrus fruit or if your tooth sensitivity is not managed with an OTC sensitive toothpaste, schedule a consultation with one of our dentists.

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