Have you ever heard how good that ice cold beer taste on a hot summer day? That one beer is not the issue. So enjoy! However, having multiple beers becomes a problem for your teeth as well as other vital organs inside your body. Moderate alcohol consumption can co-exist in a healthy person’s lifestyle. In spite of that, alcohol consumption is typically not considered healthy.
Alcohol’s Affect on your Teeth
The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that one of the side effects of alcohol can be just as damaging to your teeth: dehydration. Alcohol consumption leads to a decrease in saliva flow, so instead of being washed away naturally, bacteria clings to the enamel and increases your risk of tooth decay.
People who suffer from alcohol dependency tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are three times as likely to suffer from permanent tooth loss.
But are moderate drinkers at risk for serious tooth and mouth disease? There isn’t much conclusive medical evidence, but dentists say that they see the effects of moderate drinking regularly.
“The color in beverages comes from chromogens,” explains Dr. John Grbic, director of oral biology and clinical research in dentistry at Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine. Chromogens attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acid in alcohol, and stain teeth. One way to bypass this is to drink alcoholic drinks with a straw.
“If you have a preference for mixing liquor with dark sodas or drinking red wine, say goodbye to a white smile,” says Dr. Timothy Chase, D.M.D., of SmilesNY. “Aside from the sugar content, dark colored soft drinks can stain or discolor the teeth. Remember to rinse your mouth with water between drinks.”
Beer is only marginally better, according to Dr. Joseph Banker, D.M.D., of Creative Dental. “Beer is acidic just like wine. That makes teeth more likely to be stained by the dark barley and malts found in darker beers.”
Dr. Banker also notes that drinks high in alcohol, like spirits, dry the mouth. Saliva keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Try to stay hydrated by drinking water while you drink alcohol.
Tooth damage related to alcohol is increased if you chew the ice in your drinks, which can break your teeth, or if you add citrus to your beverage. The American Dental Association notes that even a squeeze of lemon provides enough acid to etch away at tooth enamel.
One study did conclude that red wine kills oral bacteria called streptococci, which is associated with tooth decay. Of course, you shouldn’t start drinking red wine just for that reason!