As we are heading into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we thought it was an opportune time to talk about alcohol and your teeth. We discussed the damage soda can do to teeth in an earlier blog, but what about alcohol?
The fact is, alcohol is acidic, too, which means it can damage teeth. Here’s a few noteworthy facts:
- Alcohol dries your mouth. This reduces saliva, which creates a more acidic environment in your mouth. And that can lead to a softening of your tooth enamel.
- Alcohol in general, and wine in particular, can soften tooth enamel. Wine’s malic, tartaric, lactic, succinic and citric acids lower the pH in your mouth to below a critical point. In addition, wine’s mineral content and its calcium binding properties may contribute to its erosive potential.
- Sugary alcoholic drinks can be the worst, as the sugar also causes tooth decay. The sugar content in beer, sweet wines and, of course, such drinks as rum and coke can wreak havoc.
- Alcohol can stain your teeth. “Red wine teeth” are caused by a mix of the acids, natural dyes and tannins in the wine. And here’s a fun fact: If you haven’t been to the dentist for a professional dental cleaning, avoid the green beer — the dyes used in the beer stain the bacterial cell walls in plaque and can show the world that you need a check-up!
- Excessive alcohol consumption can cause cavities, gum deterioration and tooth loss.
So, how do you best protect your teeth from alcohol?
- Mix drinks with soda water instead of soft drinks or other sweet mixers in order to help reduce the acidity.
- After each alcoholic beverage, drink a glass of water in order to dilute the acid.
- Chewing sugar-free gum can help increase saliva production so your mouth does not dry out as much.
- Wait at least 20 minutes or up to an hour after drinking alcohol to brush your teeth. It takes the saliva that long to remineralize the tooth enamel that was softened by acid. Brushing too soon can damage the enamel further. Just don’t go to sleep before you brush.
You don’t have to go alcohol-free to protect your teeth. Moderation is key. And don’t forget to brush!