Alcohol’s Effects on Your Oral Health

black woman with curly hair smiling and drinking a beverage
Author: cmcgovern Posted: December 22nd, 2020 Category:

Could your favorite cocktail be compromising your oral health? Here’s what you need to know.

As the holiday season approaches, there are plenty of opportunities to (safely) gather with loved ones and celebrate good times, even if you have to do so virtually. Celebrations often come with a bubbly alcoholic beverage or two, and most of us know to drink in moderation for the sake of their liver or blood sugar. But can alcohol have a negative impact on your gums, teeth, and overall oral health as well? Here’s everything you need to know before your next virtual cocktail hour.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Teeth?

Alcohol consumption, even in moderation, can lead to a number of oral health issues. Have you ever noticed that you feel thirsty after having a few drinks at happy hour? That’s because alcohol is notoriously dehydrating. Alcohol slows down saliva production and provides the perfect low pH environment for bacteria to form, which causes dry mouth and bad breath. As you sip on your alcoholic beverage over an extended period of time, you prevent saliva from washing away the plaque and bacteria that can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Some people chew ice to generate some saliva in between sips, but that actually damages your tooth enamel and makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay in the long run.

Also, fancy cocktails, margarita mixes, and flavored alcohols can be detrimental to your oral health because they’re loaded with sugar. Unfortunately, bacteria love sugary drinks as much as you do. It’s also well known that sugary drinks can lead to plaque buildup, which causes cavities. Alcohol can also ruin your bright, white smile. Red wine, sangria, whiskey, stout beer, and other dark alcohols contain chromogens and tannins that bind to your tooth enamel and cause discoloration. 

You can experience the aforementioned oral health issues even if you’re a moderate drinker, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify as someone who has one to two drinks per day. If you’re a heavy drinker, consuming eight to fifteen or more alcoholic beverages a week, you increase your risk of developing serious oral health complications. Heavy drinkers are more susceptible to gum disease, permanent tooth decay, canker sores, and oral cancer.

The Best Alcoholic Drinks for Oral Health 

You don’t necessarily have to eliminate alcohol from your life altogether to keep your teeth healthy and strong — you just have to be smart about what and how much you drink. Some alcoholic beverages are comparatively better for your oral health than others. For example, opting for white wine instead of red will better protect your teeth from stains, and light beer is better for your teeth because of its high water content and low acidity levels. Finally, toast with brut champagne for a bubbly, low-sugar treat.

You can also reduce the negative effects of alcohol on your teeth by practicing good dental hygiene. When drinking, make sure you drink plenty of water to wash away the remnants of bar food, sugar, and citric acid. You can also sip through a straw to concentrate the beverage and prevent it from reaching all of your teeth. When you’re finished celebrating for the night, brush and floss extra carefully.  

A Visit to Espire 

It’s perfectly normal to enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time — just make sure you’re choosing drinks that will do the least amount of harm to your teeth and always practice good dental care. Contact the dental professionals at Espire Dental to schedule your next cleaning! We want you to have a smile you’re proud of, and we’re happy to help.