Drinking alcohol has many effects on your body, from impaired motor function and muscle relaxation in small doses to impaired vision and liver disease in extreme amounts. Drinking alcohol can indirectly affect your teeth and gums as well, something you might want to think about before you pick up that next glass of wine. Not all alcohol is created equally though, so we’re going to look at the three most common forms of alcohol and how they interact with your teeth and overall oral health. It is possible to practice good oral hygiene and maintain good dental health even if you drink wine, beer, or harder liquors regularly. The trick is understanding just how alcohol affects healthy teeth, and practicing the steps needed to prevent tooth decay and maintain a healthy mouth.
Red wine can easily stain your teeth. Wine’s acidity has also been linked to tooth decay. On top of that, if you are drinking sweeter wines with a lower alcohol content, you’re drinking more sugar. If you taste wine by swishing it around in your mouth, you will also get wine into hard to reach places between your teeth. Mouthwash is usually an effective solution to remove most bacteria, but does not always remove 100% of the bacteria.
Despite what you might have heard, red wine is not an alternative to brushing your teeth. A recent study did show that red wine had some anti-microbial abilities, but not against S. mutans, the bacteria associated with creating cavities.
Over all, enjoy your wine with a glass of water to cleanse your palate as well as your teeth, and be sure to practice a routine of regular brushing and flossing after drinking.
Beer has many different styles and additives which means some beer is more acidic than other forms of alcohol. Generally, beer made with fruit, such as cherry or grapefruit, will be more acidic than a beer made with barley, and more hops and acid is more likely to cause tooth decay. Darker beer made with black patent malt or coffee can lead to tooth staining in high amounts. Drinking a glass of water alongside your beer and rinsing your mouth can significantly help protect your teeth.
Liquor is made from fermented fruit, grain, or other plant material, then distilled into a high concentration of alcohol. Any alcohol in a large enough quantity will dry your mouth out by shutting down saliva production. Saliva is your mouths way of keeping clean and healthy and without it, dry mouth, tooth decay and gum disease become major dental problems. A lot of people drink liquor mixed in with another beverage of some sort. The common cocktail is either tart, which is acidic, or sweet, which is filled with sugar, both factors you need to watch out for because both can damage your teeth and gum tissue.
This is all looking at light to moderate alcohol consumption. The effects get more pronounced at higher levels. If you drink alcohol, we recommend you do so in moderation, have a glass of water handy, and be aware of what you’re sipping on. Write down and remember any questions you have about alcohol and your teeth, and ask a dental professional the next time you visit your dentist in Greensboro, NC. In the meantime, remember to keep brushing your teeth regularly!