It is indeed true that managing your oral hygiene can be tricky. Some rules, like avoiding sodas and sugary candies, are easy to understand. But the impact of other foods and drinks on your oral health can be more difficult to determine. One such food that presents a conundrum is citrus fruits.

Are citrus fruits healthy? While citrus is high in vitamin C, it can form part of a healthy diet, but citrus is high in acid too. Acid is, in fact, one of the enemies of good oral hygiene. It is probably because it wears away tooth enamel and can increase your risk of developing cavities.

How Does Citrus Fruits Impact Your Oral Health?

Citrus fruits are chock full of vitamin C. Vitamin C as you might know, has tons of health benefits like lowering blood pressure, healing wounds, fighting infection, and more. However, all citrus foods are also full of citric acid that can contribute to enamel damage and canker sores.

Should You Avoid Citrus?

No, as citrus fruits have several health benefits. Therefore, experts recommend consuming citrus in moderation. Meaning you can still enjoy the refreshing taste and at the same time obtain vitamin C benefits while not exposing your teeth to excessive citric acid. 

After consuming citrus, one good way to protect your teeth is to drink a glass of water immediately. The water will help wash away the acid from your enamel before it can do much damage.

Benefits of Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are a family of fruits that include commonly available fruits like lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit, and all types of oranges. Citrus fruits are readily available during the cold and flu season. These fruits are available during this period as they are high in immune-boosting vitamin C and prevent you from getting infected. But there are other benefits of including citrus fruits in your diet:

  • These fruits are high in fiber.
  • Heart-healthy: Studies confirm that citrus is high in flavonoids. This is an added advantage when it comes to heart health. Other studies show that citrus fruits can help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Citrus also helps your body absorb other vitamins and minerals (like iron) better.
  • Low glycemic index: Note that a piece of citrus fruit, especially a grapefruit, would not cause a spike in your sugar levels.
  • Good for weight loss.
  • Good for healthy skin: Vitamin C-rich citrus improves collagen production, hence is good for your skin.

Why are Acids Bad for Your Teeth?

Even though it is recommended that you eat a variety of citrus fruits and vegetables, acidic foods and beverages could have harmful side effects on our oral health. This is because acidic substances have a lower pH than the pH in your mouth. As you might be aware, pH is measured on the ph scale.

Introducing more of these harmful acids can weaken your tooth enamel. Thus opening up the door for other complications and dental problems. This is why your dentist will recommend that you wait 30 minutes after a meal before you brush your teeth. Otherwise, you may damage your teeth from the abrasion of the toothbrush bristles. Once 30 minutes have passed, it is important that you clean your teeth to prevent acid and plaque build-up from occurring.

With prolonged acidic exposure, your teeth may suffer from higher levels of decay and tooth sensitivity. When you visit your dentist, they may mitigate some of the damage caused by acids. But note that repeated exposure will alter the environment of your mouth. This would prevent your mouth from remineralizing your enamel, leading to further complications.

But you cannot stop eating acidic foods altogether. Acidic fruits and vegetables often have high levels of vitamin C, making them the power house for bodily health. Thanks to vitamin C, you are able to promote good gum health and prevent harmful conditions like scurvy. 

Luckily, there are ways to reduce the harmful effects of acids from citrus fruits (vitamin C fruits). There are some of the most acidic foods and beverages you eat regularly. 

How Do Citric Fruits Cause Cavities?

You probably would know that cavities are bad, but you may not know exactly how cavities are formed. Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria that feed on starches and sugar and to create acid. 

Acid wears away on your enamel. Over time it can create cavities, or holes, in your enamel. Your teeth are also exposed to additional acid through your diet. These include citrus fruits and juices you consume regularly. Cavities whether big or small require prompt detection and treatment. Probably because they can lead to gum infection and tooth decay.

How Does Citric Fruits Damage Your Teeth?

You probably would know that cavities are bad, but you may not know precisely how cavities are formed. Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria that feed on starches and sugar and create acid.  

Even though enamel is the hardest surface in your body, it is undoubtedly not impervious to acid. Over time, your mouth acid wears away the surface of your enamel. It could lead to demineralization, decay, and cavities. 

Tooth cavities are small holes and pits that penetrate the surface through multiple layers of your teeth. Without prompt treatment, these cavities can lead to infection, bad breath, pain, tooth loss, and even bone loss. Therefore, you should visit your dentist once you detect a cavity.

Depending on the severity of the decay, your dentist can reverse it with fluoride, oral hygiene, and a balanced diet. But sometimes, you might require tooth fillings, root canal treatment, or extraction.

How Can You Incorporate Citrus Into Your Healthy Diet? 

Consume citrus in moderation to care for your overall health and your teeth. After consuming citrus, drinking a glass of water can help wash your teeth clean from food particles. You can add citrus fruits to your vegetable salad or your main course meal. Additionally, it can limit the damage from citric acid.  

A good at-home oral hygiene routine can help protect your teeth. But you should follow this routine strictly. You should brush your teeth twice daily for at least two minutes each time. Moreover, you should floss every day to get the maximum benefit.

In addition to brushing, flossing, you should regularly visit your dental office. A balanced diet is an important part of maintaining excellent oral health. You probably know the basics of a diet good for oral health: limit sugary foods items, eat a variety of nutritious foods, drink plenty of water, etc. However, specific foods, like citrus fruits, have positive and negative effects on oral health.

Citrus Fruits and Juices: One of the Most Acidic Food and Beverage

As you might, acidic foods and beverages have lower pH levels on the pH scale. The pH scale runs from zero to 14. With zero being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. When you ingest foods with both low and high pH values, they are not suitable for your oral health. Commonly most fruits and vegetables have a low pH value.

One of the most acidic fruits you eat often is lemons and limes. According to the FDA, on the pH scale, these fruits have a level of only 2.0 To 2.8. When you know these figures, it makes sense why this acidic food is so sour. However, these citrus fruits are followed closely by other common fruits like grapes, cranberries, and plums, with an average pH of about three.

Most coffees only have a pH of around four on the comparison scale. Your dentist would indeed suggest limiting the intake of acidic coffee. But they would not stop you from eating an entire bowl of juicy grapes, probably because they have other nutrients.

While you do not have to eliminate these foods from your diet, it is only recommended that you limit their intake. Luckily, you can find several fruits and vegetables that are less acidic and offer just as many benefits as these acidic fruits. For instance, cantaloupe is far more basic, having a pH of around 6.5. It is one of the best sources of vitamin C available. Watermelon and bananas are two other options to supplement your daily vitamin C intake.

How to Enjoy Citrus Fruits?

As you might be aware, citrus fruit offers so many health benefits. Therefore, it would be a shame to avoid it together. But these juicy fruits should still have a place in your diet because of their health benefits.

  • Assess the acidity level: Note that all citrus fruits do not have the same pH level. You need to understand the pH level to help determine which fruits are the most acidic. Meaning the lower the number, the more acidic the fruit is. For example, lemons, for instance, have a pH level of around 2, while oranges have a pH level of 3.69 to 4.34. If tooth sensitivity is a big issue for you, you should stick with less acidic fruits.
  • Eat cheese with fruit: Cheese and fruits are a perfect combo. Cheese increases the pH of your mouth, which helps to neutralize all of the acids.
  • Use a straw when drinking fruit juice: Straws help reduce the contact of juice/acid with the surface of your teeth or teeth enamel.
  • Try using toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating a citrus fruit to rinse away the acid out of your mouth
  • Brush and floss and eat citrus fruit: But wait at least 30 minutes after rinsing with water before brushing your teeth.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what you eat, you should practice healthy oral care habits. Good habbits should include rinsing your mouth with water after a meal and brushing your teeth after 30 minutes have passed. 

Along with these good oral habits, you should try to cut down your intake of low-pH foods and drinks at least a few times each week. This practice will ensure you are not exposing your teeth or your kid’s teeth to harsh acids too frequently.