While enjoying an alcoholic beverage once in a while is fine, too much of it can be a bad thing.
Besides giving you a bad hangover, drinking too much can seriously harm your gums and teeth – especially when consumed on a frequent basis. And since most people drink at least socially, it’s a good idea to be aware of the effects of alcohol on your oral health.
So what are these harmful effects?
High Acid Content
Most alcoholic drinks are highly acidic. Acid wears away tooth enamel, making your teeth weaker and more susceptible to decay. It can also damage gum tissue, increasing your chances of developing gum disease.
Binge drinking is the worst for your oral health. If you’re regularly vomiting from drinking too much, your vomit (which also contains your stomach acid) is further eroding your gums and teeth.
Alcohol dehydrates you and that means your mouth is dehydrated as well. When your mouth is dehydrated, it contains less saliva, which acts as a buffer against harmful bacteria and acid. Saliva helps clean away plaque and bacteria in your mouth and keeps your gums and teeth healthy. Less salvia means you’ll be more prone to bad breath, tooth decay and erosion.
Many alcohol beverages, such as pina coladas and sweet sherry, may taste great but are loaded with sugar. This is bad news for your teeth since the bacteria in your mouth feed off the sugar and discharge acid, which further erodes your teeth.
The harmful effects are multiplied when you mix alcohol with soft drinks (such as cola and red bull) since these carbonated drinks are laced with sugar and highly acidic. The worst mixed drink is probably rum and pure cola, due to its mix of sugar, acid and carbonate content. Instead, go for a diet cola instead.
Long Term Consequences
It’s safe to say that if your drinking habits are heavier than ‘recommend’, you should be careful of the long-term effects of alcohol on your body. You may not notice the effects right away (besides the occasional hangover) but they can add up over time and do some serious damage to your health.
Studies show that people who drink excessively are more at risk of developing mouth and throat cancer due to tissue damage. In fact, people who combine smoking and drinking are 3 times more at risk of oral cancer than if you just smoke or drink.
What’s the Solution?
We understand that cutting out alcohol completely is going to be hard for most people. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help protect your teeth when you have your next drink:
- Stay away from sparkling alcoholic drinks, such as wine and champagne, which have a lower pH level. Dry sparkling wines are the worst since the bubbles are formed by carbon dioxide and thus acidic.
- When mixing drinks, fruit juices are a better choice than sodas. This is because juice has a higher pH level and is non-carbonated.
- Use a straw since the drink will go straight to the back of your mouth and limit the amount that comes into contact with your teeth
- Drink plenty of water. This will help dilute the acid and minimize its wear on your teeth
- Chew sugarless gum. This will help stimulate saliva and keep your mouth moist.
Cancer Research UK. “Alcohol and cancer: the evidence” http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/healthyliving/alcohol/stats_and_evidence/alcohol-and-cancer-the-evidence
Destination Hope. “The Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Your Teeth” http://www.drugrehabfl.net/2012/08/15/the-effects-of-alcohol-abuse-on-your-teeth/
ETAN SMALLMAN. ” How that nightly glass of wine can wreck your teeth: Dentists warn of the dangers of alcohol for oral health”
Natasha. “The Worst Alcoholic Drinks For Your Teeth”
News.com.au “What alcohol does to your teeth”
Patient Connect 365. “Beer, Wine and Whisky? Good or Bad for Your Mouth?” https://www.patientconnect365.com/dentalhealthtopics/article/beer_wine_and_whisky_good_or_bad_for_your_mouth