Here are three theories and three important warnings to help reduce your dental bills.
Hi there, I am Dr David Cowhig and founder of Dental Wellness in Brisbane, Australia. I have been working as a holistic dentist for the Wellness orientated patient for nearly 20 years. I qualified as a dentist at Kings College London in 1989 and moved over to Australia in 1998. I gained a fellowship in Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 1998 and just last year became certified in Anti-Ageing Medicine with A5M. I have a holistic dental practice in The Gap and another facility in Newstead focussing on holistic aesthetic total metal free dentistry. It is called Dental Wellness Aesthetics.
Over the years I have had many patients who are passionate about their health and longevity. They are aware that good gut health and healthy digestion is the key to optimal wellbeing. Many natural health practitioners encourage having a lemon water drink on rising. This appears to stimulate digestion and help with elimination of toxins. There are a number of theories as to why this occurs.
The lemon water is over 10000 times more acidic (pH-3) that the saliva in the mouth when it hits your mouth. Your saliva has the ability to rapidly buffer this acidity to a neutral pH of 7 in an instant. The regulatory system that controls your saliva pH is the autonomic nervous system. We do not have control over this system. The main cranial nerve that controls the saliva pH and parasympathetic nervous system is the Vagus nerve. This nerve wanders throughout the body being responsible for tears, saliva, gut microbiome, liver and gall bladder stimulation, heart rate and even lung function.
So the first theory is that the lemon water creates a quick stimulation of the vagus nerve and so activates the bodily functions for good health. This can only be seen as a good thing.
The second theory is that it is just the action of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning that will rehydrate the body and promote digestive stimulation. The Japanese traditionally recommend 2-3 glasses of room temperature water without lemon, first thing in the morning and this leads to more energy throughout the day and improved digestive health.
The third theory is that lemon water although acidic stimulates the body to become more alkaline by producing ash that leads to urine alkalisation. Blood pH is kept strictly between 7.36 and 7.45 and will not be alkalised outside of this range.
In my experience over the last twenty years, the patients that get most benefit from the lemon water are those that have under developed jaws. This has been due to a life long habit of breathing through their mouth instead of their nose, especially throughout the night. When their upper jaw was developing as a child, mouth breathing leads to a poor tongue position that rests on the lower teeth. This leads to developing a steep narrow palate and overcrowding often resulting in old fashioned orthodontics where healthy teeth are removed to allow for braces. Snoring, and waking with a dry mouth is common and a feeling of exhaustion on rising also. These patients have poor sleep quality and often wake in the night more than once for visits to the toilet.
The Vagus nerve is active at night when the Parasympathetic system is supposed to be active in healing, calm and regenerative sleep. Unfortunately mouth breathing and snoring leads to the activation of the other side of the autonomic nervous system, the Sympathetic. This puts your body in the ‘fight or flight’ mode all night and the Vagus nerve activity is reduced.
When these patients wake exhausted and with stale dry mouth, the first thing they do is place a highly acidic solution of lemon water into their mouths. The stimulation of the healing digestive systems of the body occurs and they get on with their day.
The role of saliva in your mouth is to lubricate the mucosa and wash away debris and bacteria from the teeth. It is also responsible for the first stage in digestion with the production of digestive enzymes. There is a fine smear layer of saliva resting on and in between your teeth called the biofilm. This biofilm harbours different species of bacteria, virus and fungi that alter depending on its environment and pH. When the saliva is more acidic the biofilm becomes more virulent of potentially harmful bacteria that can lead to dental problems as well as systemic inflammatory reactions.
When the lemon water touches the mouth the saliva responds and buffers, but this does not happen to the biofilm. It will remain thousands of times more acidic for up to four hours.
So the first warning to be given if my patients continue with this morning regime is to tell them not to brush their teeth straight afterwards. Have your breakfast and only brush at least forty minutes afterwards. If you do brush your teeth straight after lemon water your protective white hard shell of enamel is in danger of being literally brushed away. Enamel is the hardest substance in your body but it will dissolve in a pH of 5.0. That is 100 times more acidic that your resting saliva. So an assault of acid 100 times more acidic than this will only lead to trouble.
The second warning is about the risk of active tooth decay at the neck of your teeth. The saliva biofilm rests at the neck of the teeth where your enamel is thinnest. This is your weakest part of the teeth and it is common to start getting sensitivity in your teeth and the beginning of small brown spots at the root-tooth junction. So patients who have not had any dentistry for years all of a sudden need multiple fillings. The other risk area is under your existing fillings as small problems become big problems rapidly. The replacement costs for these areas of decay can be high, but it is essential that they are addressed as we want to avoid the risk of the need for root canal therapy.
The third warning about the regime is that over time your teeth will become darker. As you lose microscopic amounts of precious enamel your front teeth will lose their lustre. You may try some whitening products but it will have minimal effect. The whiteness of your teeth is related to the reflection of light off your enamel. As you lose your enamel the light begins to show up the darker yellower dentine of the tooth. The solution to this is the seating of thin porcelain veneers that are made to reflect the light once more giving you a brighter healthy smile.
Some simple solutions.
- A good idea would be to make up a solution of filtered water and aluminium free bicarbonate of soda and bathe your mouth in it for 1 minute after using the lemon water. This will alkaline the biofilm and remove the risk of losing your precious enamel.
- To reduce the activity of harmful bacteria on and between your teeth practice oil pulling every morning while you make your healthy breakfast. Hold coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 5-20 minutes and draw and pull it between your teeth. This will balance the natural flora of the mouth and slow down any active decay.
- Avoid strong whitening liquids or tooth powders as they will only remove more enamel as well as any stain.
I hope you have found this post helpful and look forward to seeing you in the future at Dental Wellness. If you have any questions and live a fair way away from The Gap or Newstead, Brisbane I invite you to book an online face to face meeting with me so I can alleviate your fears and reassure you on the right path to follow on your journey to optimal oral health.
It’s good for you!
David Cowhig – founder of Dental Wellness
Give us a call on 07 3511 1399 and discuss how we can help you create a safer, healthy, beautiful smile.