Effect of alcohol on dental health

What can I do to reduce the effects of alcohol on my teeth?

We all love having a little drink every now and then. However, we often forget to think about the repercussions of alcohol on our health – specifically, our teeth.

Alcohol can affect your teeth in different ways. First, up is staining – the colour in drinks comes from chromogens which stick to the tooth enamel. This process is made easier when the tooth surface has been compromised by the acid in alcohol. Unfortunately, wine and beer are both acidic and the dark barley in beer is likely to stain teeth more than white wine.

Drinks such as spirits are high in alcohol which can dehydrate your mouth. Healthy saliva is fundamental to oral health as it helps to remove bacterial plaque. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria that cause decay.

High sugar content in lots of alcoholic drinks, as well as the acid in alcohol and anything that is fizzy/carbonated (the bubbles release acid), leads to tooth breakdown. This breakdown can lead to cavities and in the case of a diet high in acid; it can thin enamel causing irreversible damage as well as sensitivity. Remember this includes tonic water and even mineral and soda water! Additionally, chewing ice can crack and chip teeth.

  • Reduce episodes of binge drinking – Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advises binge drinking typically happens when men consume 5 or more standard drinks or women consume 4 or more standard drinks in about 2 hours.
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks
  • Floss regularly and brush twice a day
  • See your dental professional for regular checks and cleans

Some good news to finish off – one study in 2007 did conclude that red wine kills oral bacteria called streptococci, which is associated with tooth decay. So we aren’t encouraging you to drink more red wine, but perhaps don’t feel too guilty about the occasional glass or two!

Read our previous post on general oral health topics here: Baby Teeth – Tips on baby tooth care

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