Although taking certain alcohol beverages in moderation is supposed to be good for your body, the same cannot be said of your dental health. This does not mean that a glass of wine or two will necessarily pose any significant dental risks, but it still pays to understand the effects that alcohol can have on your teeth – even if you do consider yourself a social drinker.
The biggest “strainers” in the alcohol group have to be the red wines and ports, due to their high chromogen count, which is responsible for the colour in these beverages. That said, the acidic and sugary content in most alcoholic beverages would already wear away your tooth enamel, to expose the yellowish dentine layer beneath it. Attaching itself to the already weakened enamel layer, chromogens from drinks with heavy pigments will only exacerbate the staining.1
The effect is even more pronounced when you mix these dark-coloured alcoholic beverages with other pigmented drinks into cocktails.1 Usual suspects for add-ons include Irish cream coffee, cranberry juice, blackcurrent cordial and dark-coloured sodas.
One way to bypass the staining effects of such beverages is to drink them through a straw so as to minimise their contact with your pearlies. Otherwise, you may wish to ask your dentist for a custom-made rubber mouth guard that can protect against staining.2
Alcohol can also cause dryness of the mouth as it hinders the way your body absorbs the fluids – leaving you dehydrated – at the same time, reducing your saliva production.3
Saliva is vital to your dental health as it keeps your teeth moist and helps to flush away plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. This is also the reason why some dentists recommend drinking water – to keep yourself hydrated – as you consume alcohol. The dry mouth also renders your oral cavity more prone to gum disease, which if untreated, can eventually lead to bone loss and tooth loss.3
Alcohol is also bad for your teeth because your oral bacteria (Streptococcus mutans, to be precise) thrive on the sugar content in the beverage to get its energy, and in turn, produce acid that attacks the hard tissues of your teeth. If your teeth are exposed to the sugars and starches in alcohol without a break – as is the case with people who drink excessively – the enamel doesn’t get a chance to remineralize. The constant enamel attack and deterioration can pass a certain breaking point and lead to the development of cavities.
Although smoking is usually blamed for the high incidence rate of oral cancers, scientists also warn against using both tobacco and alcohol together – they are found to interact synergistically, while increasing the harmful effects of the other.5 The dehydrating effects of alcohol on cell walls in the mouth is found to increase the impact of tobacco carcinogens on the oral tissues. Hence alcohol, used in conjunction with tobacco, has been recognised as a major risk factor for oral cancer.5
To book an appointment with one of our friendly dentists to consult on any dental issues – including teeth whitening – please contact Macquarie Street Centre on 02 9247 1394 today.
1. Carey, Elea. "What Does Alcohol Do to Your Teeth?" Healthline. June 25, 2015. http://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/what-does-alcohol-do-to-your-teeth#teeth2.
2. Smallman, Etan. "How that nightly glass of wine can wreck your teeth: Dentists warn of the dangers of alcohol for oral health." Daily Mail Online. August 07, 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2718388/How-nightly-glass-wine-wreck-teeth.html.
3. "What are the effects of alcohol on your teeth?" OrthoExcellence. December 03, 2016. http://www.smilewithbraces.com/blog/what-are-the-effects-of-alcohol-on-your-teeth.
4. Jr., Dr. David Mady. "Sugars, Acids in Alcohol May Lead to Tooth Decay." Dentistry Today. http://dentistrytoday.com/todays-dental-news/4262-sugars-acids-in-alcohol-may-lead-to-tooth-decay.
5. "The Alcohol Connection." The Oral Cancer Foundation. http://oralcancerfoundation.org/understanding/alcohol-connection/.