Is Alcohol Bad for Your Teeth? – Let’s Find Out

We all are familiar with the effects of carbonated drinks and sugary food on our teeth. But do you know that drinking alcohol can also affect the health of your teeth?

Whether it is a glass of champagne, wine, cocktail or a beer, you should be aware that alcohol does not have friendly effects on your teeth.

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The holiday season is the time when everyone gathers together and celebrates with delicious food and of course lots of alcohol.

While moderate alcohol consumption is considered as a part of the social lifestyle, alcohol, in general, is not regarded as healthy.

The short term and long term effects of alcohol may affect the body tissues, mouth, brain, liver and heart.

Gums diseases, tooth decay, and mouth sores are a common occurrence among heavy alcohol drinkers. Alcohol abuse is one of the most common risk factors for the development of oral cancer. (1)

A thorough dental routine can help you get rid of some of the effects of alcohol on teeth.

This article highlights alcohol consumption and its effects on oral health especially the teeth.

Facts about drinking alcohol

The national survey on drug use and health in the year 2015 demonstrated that about 86.4% of the people under 18 years of age in the U.S drank alcohol at some point in their life.

This study also revealed that about 26.9% of the people aged above 18 years were engaged in binge drinking for months at a stretch.

When alcohol is consumed, it gets absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream and directly affects the central nervous system. Alcohol is usually a depressant, but in some people, it may give rise to irrational and aggressive behavior. 

The center for disease control and prevention has set levels of moderate alcohol use as one drink for women and two drinks for men per day. Moderate drinking keeps the risks at a minimum.

How does alcohol affect your teeth?

Heavy alcohol drinkers have high levels of plaque on their teeth and are more likely to experience permanent tooth loss.

Moderate drinkers may experience less severe effects that can be treated and prevented with good oral health care routine.

Let’s look at some of the common oral effects caused by alcohol consumption –

Staining of teeth

Alcoholic drinks that have a characteristic dark color often causes staining on the surface of the teeth. Red wine, sangria, and beverages with deep hue stain the teeth red and cause long-lasting dullness and discoloration.

The color in these beverages comes from chromogens. Chromogens attach to the tooth surface which has been compromised already by the acidic content of the drink and cause staining.

Rinse your mouth or drink water between drinks to minimize the effects of staining on your teeth.

Dehydration and dryness of mouth

One of the common side effects of drinking alcohol is dehydration and dryness of the mouth. Consumption of alcohol leads to decreased salivary flow. This process allows the bacteria to cling to the tooth surface which increases the risk of tooth decay. (2)

One of the other symptoms of dryness after alcohol consumption is bad breath. To eliminate this problem, drink water between drinks to replenish saliva and maintain hydration in the mouth and body.

Acidity

Most of the alcohol beverages are acidic. For example, white wine is more acidic than red wine. Sparkling wines are incredibly acidic, the bubbles created in this drink are formed due to the presence of carbon dioxide which is acidic.

The acidic nature of such beverages causes acid erosion of the enamel from the surface of the teeth. With excessive consumption of alcohol, the teeth may show the following signs –

Increased sugar content

Sugar content is a significant contributor to dental caries. Sugar is the primary source of nutrition for oral bacteria that eventually cause tooth decay.

Typically, white wine contains 3 grams of sugar per 5-ounce serving, while red wine contains a whopping amount of 8 grams of sugar per 5-ounce serving.

By choosing drinks that have low sugar content can save you from the side effects of bacterial accumulation in your mouth.

How can you protect your healthy teeth?

There are specific things that you can do to minimize the effects of alcohol on your teeth while you enjoy a glass of wine or champagne –

  • Add plenty of ice to dilute the acidity of the drink
  • Drink water between drinks to maintain adequate hydration in the body and moisture in the mouth
  • Rinse your mouth with water between the drinks to flush away the bacteria from the mouth and neutralize the acids from the drink
  • Use a straw to minimize direct contact of the drink with your teeth
  • Do not brush immediately after drinking alcohol as brushing with the residual acids in the mouth will worsen enamel erosion
  • Straight drink of whiskey or vodka with lots of ice is less acidic as compared to a glass of wine. Choose a drink which contains less sugar and acidic content
  • Surprisingly, beer is not that bad for your teeth. Beer contains a good amount of calcium that can strengthen the teeth

Take away message

The holiday season is the time when we indulge ourselves in drinking alcohol and celebrating festivals with our family members.

While such events cannot be ignored, a check on the type of alcohol and the frequency of drinking can take you a long way in maintaining your health and saving your teeth.

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Alcohol has two significant contents that have proven to be harmful to the teeth over a long time. High sugar content and the acidity of the drink plays a crucial role in damaging the health of your teeth. (4)

Enamel erosion is a common dental issue among alcohol drinkers. With added symptoms of dry mouth, the bacteria accumulate and feed on the sugar content leading to tooth decay and gum diseases.

An excellent way to maintain oral health is by following specific precautionary measures while you enjoy your favorite drink.

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