teeth and alcohol Young smiling woman with glass of red wine, indoors

Teeth and Alcohol

Many adults enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage. However, too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your health, including your teeth. Before grabbing your next beer, glass of wine, or mixed drink, consider how alcohol impacts your oral health and why it is important to drink in moderation.

How Alcohol Affects Your Oral and Dental Health

Causes Dehydration

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dehydration is one of the most overlooked side effects of alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol can dry out the mouth due to a decrease in saliva flow. Under normal conditions, the saliva in your mouth would help to wash away food and bacteria that clings to your teeth and contributes to tooth decay. However, when the mouth is dry, these toxins remain on your teeth and eat away at the enamel.

Contains Sugars That Feed Bacteria

Many alcoholic beverages contain large amounts of carbohydrates or sugars. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks all contain sugars that act as fuel for cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. Known as Streptococcus mutans, these bacteria feed on simple carbs and release acids that soften and weaken tooth enamel. The more of these sugars that you consume, the more acids are created. Thus, increasing your risk of tooth decay.

Can Cause Stains

Similar to coffees, teas, and colas, dark-colored alcohol can stain your teeth. The dark colored pigments in these popular beverages are easily absorbed into the porous surface of the teeth. These pigments can cause unsightly discoloration that can be difficult to get rid of with brushing alone. Over time, the teeth can become dull and take on a yellow or brown appearance. As tooth enamel is broken down, the underlying dentin layer is exposed which can also make the teeth appear discolored.

Can Increase Your Oral Cancer Risk

Each year, more than 50,000 people receive a diagnosis of oral cancer. Tobacco is the number one risk factor of developing oral cancer, followed by alcohol consumption. Reducing your alcohol consumption can help reduce your risk of developing a wide range of cancers, including oral cancer.

How to Safely Enjoy Your Alcoholic Beverages

While too much alcohol can be bad for your teeth and overall health, you don’t necessarily need to stop drinking altogether. There are ways to safely drink alcohol on occasion. Follow these simple tips for drinking while keeping your teeth healthy:

  • Watch your alcohol intake. Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Avoid the long-term side effects of alcohol consumption by only drinking once in a while and in moderation. If you are already feeling the side effects of alcohol consumption, such as chronic dry mouth, consider reducing your alcohol intake.
  • Neutralize your mouth. A high alcohol consumption can significantly increase the pH balance in your mouth. The more acidic your mouth is, the more likely you are to develop tooth decay. Neutralize your mouth after drinking an alcoholic beverage by drinking plain water or by chewing sugar-free gum. It is also a good idea to drink your alcohol with a meal as chewing encourages saliva flow.
  • Reduce the bacteria in your mouth. While everyone has good and bad bacteria in their mouth, an abundance of bad bacteria can lead to cavities. Cavity-causing bacteria live in dental plaque on your teeth. Visit your dentist at least every six months for a dental teeth cleaning to help remove sticky plaque.
  • Choose non-alcoholic alternatives. There are many tasty beverages that can be enjoyed as an alternative to alcohol. Some of the best beverages for your teeth include plain water, milk, tea, real fruit juice, and vegetable juices that are low in sugar.

Schedule a Dental Cleaning Today

Regular dental cleanings can help remove sticky plaque and help keep your smile bright and healthy. To learn more about the effect of alcohol on your teeth or to schedule an appointment with our experienced Melbourne, FL dentist, contact Artistic Touch Dentistry.